I have been bitten by the rebranding bug: I am markritson

What a week for rebranding eh? I simply can’t remember a seven days like it in the whole history of marketing.

Ritson award winner

It started with the shock announcement that Google had rebranded itself. The news and subsequent revelation of the new identity sent shock waves around the branding world. Some designers were aghast at the fact that the logo had become sans serif when serifs were clearly back in vogue. Others argued that losing the serifs was absolutely the way to go because it communicated a jauntier, more open personality to Google’s billions of users. The rest of us used Google to discover that the word “serif” just means the little pointy leg things at the bottom of letters.

Google’s rebrand – massively different

Google logo changes

But Google wasn’t done with the serif killing. Oh no. There was more. It also announced it was going beserk with the logo too. The Google G which represents the brand on phones and tablets went from being a blue tile and lower-case letter “g” to an upper-case and multicolor “G”. Again there was frenzy. Was this the right move? Did it look too much like the Groupon logo? Was it too gay? Was it possible no-one would actually notice the change without the four thousand articles from graphic designers and unemployed social media commentators critiquing the move?

I thought the big news was over. How wrong I was. Suddenly the UK was abuzz with the news that HSBC had finally decided how they were going to rebrand their British retail bank in response to the new ringfencing legislation being introduced by the UK Government. There had been feverish speculation about the new move for months – I even wrote a column about it – because all the signals from HSBC were they were planning something big. Would we get Midland bank back from the dead? Would they invent a completely different brand?

Artist’s interpretation of how the new HSBC UK brand might look

HSBC UK potential logo

Well, last Thursday we got our answer. And who could have believed it? The bank had thrown out the rule book and gone totally fucking mental. The rebranded HSBC bank was to be called: HSBC UK. It took brand experts several hours to digest the news, but gradually the insane genius of the move became clear. The brief had been to find a way of separating HSBC’s UK business from the rest of HSBC. So why not combine the name of the bank and the country into one? While many experts critiqued the move as “obvious” others pointed to the subversive nature of being so obvious that it was actually subversive.

To be fair, at this stage the design community is still unsure if the final rollout will include the all-important space between HSBC and UK. At design consulting firm Cobblers & Co there was genuine hope this week that the bank would “break with tradition” and collapse the two acronyms into one, thus communicating a more “hi-tech, futuristic feel” and a “better sense of brand purpose”. Design guru Ian Bonkers, however, was having none of it when I spoke to him on Monday. Bonkers was convinced that removing spaces has had its day in design terms and a return to “genuine 20th Century spacing” would help stabilise HSBC’s brand image in the tough times ahead.

Amazingly, we weren’t finished yet. A few days later came the announcement that award winning integrated communications company The Agency was also about to take the identity plunge. A shock announcement from MD Sammy Mansourpour confirmed that his company had decided to change the name of his firm from The Agency to AgencyUK. “Who knows what those crazy bastards down in Bath were thinking,“ was the sage comment from one brand consultant on hearing the news. “It defies logic that you could push the envelope this far with rebranding, but that’s The Agency, sorry AgencyUK, for you.”

So dear readers, inspired and excited by the brave new world of rebranding that we are now living in I would like to announce that my own personal brand is changing. It’s simply no longer possible for me to operate within the constrained identity of Mark Ritson any longer. From this week’s edition onwards, I am removing the space between my first name and surname and, what’s more, I will be using only lower case letters from this point onwards in all my communication and presentations. I’m nervous about the change. I’m excited by the possibilities. I am markritson.


McDonald’s has a long way to go to rebuild brand

Alison Millington

McDonald’s is looking to “return excitement to its proposition and brand” as part of the plans it laid out yesterday (5 May) to “reset and turn around the business” following poor global sales performance in recent years. However, if brand tracking data is anything to go by, it has a long road ahead to rebuild its name in the UK.


There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Kishan 9 Sep 2015

    I am heart broken that you didn’t comment on the font of your rebranded reincarnation ;)… How pointless the world of Branding has became…

  2. LeShann 9 Sep 2015

    Aside from the deserved takedown of useless analyses on what the new logo means, Google’s update is not that stupid. It was motivated by two things: one is the increased use of mobile and wearable devices on which the new font is easier to read/pops more, and second it is more flexible to use as a brand asset across products (notice how the G is now multicoloured on your browser, the serif font was a bit more painful). It sounds like the decision was more practical and geared towards better distinctiveness, for once.

    • mark ritson 9 Sep 2015

      Hi LeShann – yes I do not disagree. The Google work was worthwhile, it was the ridiculous response I thought was over the top. To be fair to Google they even sounded downbeat when they announced the “evolution” too. Yours, Themarkritson

  3. Jerry Arnull 9 Sep 2015

    I must admit I tend to look at the new identities, Google and HSBC UK (Why not UK HSBC) and ask myself 1)Why 2)How much has it cost the Companies concerned 3)How many people it has kept in work. Looking at these questions, the only relevant one is 3, and then only to the people who have been paid.

  4. StefOnPointe 9 Sep 2015

    Drives me nuts when a logo change is touted as a ‘rebrand’! Great piece, Mark, as usual!

  5. Al King 9 Sep 2015

    I love it! If you break it down markritson becomes mar krits on. As in “my crits on.” That’s what you do isn’t it? Criticise the topsy turvy world of branding! I see what you’ve done there. Such a smart move. Genius in fact.

  6. To “themarkriTson.” Sorry couldn’t resist adding a bit of authority and standout to your rebrand:-) Great piece, couldn’t agree more, also not limited to name changes, the plethora of packaging changes especially re FMCG, with no added value consumer benefit is also doing my nut in! Did we learn anything from Pepsi Blue?

    PS Given the hours and significant work I put in on adding to your exceptional rebrand reckon if you use it, you owe me a least a £million, this equates to my normal per minute rate of, er, £million! 🙂

  7. Spencer 9 Sep 2015

    I think the branding world needs to rebrand itself. To PR perhaps!

  8. Mel Root 9 Sep 2015

    Its not just design gurus that have pointless opinions on rebranding – can’t count the number of times people expect a business case explanation for even the slightest adjustments, and they never accept the simple / reasonable / logical answer such as those outlined by LeShann below. Instead wanting some deep pschological proof that the selected colour or font or whatever will result in more sales.

  9. JV_at_lAttitude_in_Cairns 10 Sep 2015

    Thanks markritsin. I can always rely on you for either a dose of common sense or a burst of humour! On a (slightly) more serious note, who do these “branding specialists” think they are kidding – apart from their clients who prove the old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted!

  10. greggerypeccary 10 Sep 2015

    Is this the column formerly known as Ritson?

  11. michaelsmith123 11 Sep 2015

    Tragically Google ranks content highly in its algorythm. So the more crap people / business write about their little world the more love from Google. Hey #markritson 🙂

  12. Tim Hill 11 Sep 2015

    here we go again!…logo bashing always misses the point.. ie. the ‘why?’ behind the logo change….but that would be too boring right!?

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