RR: F1 rebrands for the sake of rebrand

Leading auto racing brand, F1 unveils a new minimalist logo to assume full activation from the 2018 season in what has quite deservedly attracted mixed reactions.

Talk about beauty and cutting the edge of the current trend of logo design aesthetics and this gets a 5-star. Talk about reflecting the emotion of a sport that is first about the adrenaline, then the circuits and you begin to agree with the critics of the new design, of which I am chief.

As I read through the official statements on the new logo, it was clear there would be no better appraisal of the new logo than to use the exact words of F1 executives themselves.

First, F1 Marketing head Ellie Norman:

This moves us away from the perception of F1 being inaccessible and just about the cars and business.”

And then adds: “It takes inspiration from the low profile shape of the car, two cars crossing a finish line.

Not about cars. Then about cars. Confusing, right?

This is only the first out of the several ways this rebranding efforts come off looking like a new management’s pride-enhancing desire to create a new image for a new era, with little or no efforts to prioritize the fans, the tradition and what the sport stands for.

The direction of the change is the exact opposite of what Ellie’s comments suggests. The reality is an identity that used to be about the core theme of F1 — blazing speed, now about, like he puts it, two cars and a finish line, which introduces my next point.

A race is never a duel or anything close to it. When you talk about several cars, the least you want to do to get close to representing “several” is 3, but then I understand how that or more fails to keep the letter F which was subtly retained, alongside the 1. If we put symbolism first, the former issue comes first and the latter fails to justify it, but let’s pass on that. The other issue with the graphics of the logo is a finish line that could easily pass for a barrier or wall. Ellie says “crossing a finish line”, but all I see is “hitting (or, reaching) the finish line”, which contradicts the feel of auto racing. Metres beyond the finish line and the car is only beginning to find deceleration. Something that cuts through like a flash would always come for me as a better choice than the very well-sitted minimal logo with a closure that the new design is.

Then the F1 Commercial Chief Sean Bratches entirely makes light the core idea of rebranding. He fails to deliver what would always be the most appropriate (or something close)— a statement of redirection and an identity that helps the brand reposition itself for today and the future, while putting what the brand stands for at the centre. But then he goes way too Trump-like, saying the actual truth of what is probably as I wrote earlier, a misplaced priority of a new management that wants to look cool:

“You cannot stitch the old logo chevron to the right. A number of brands, particularly in this day and age, are trying to simplify their marks to enter the digital space.

“Look at Starbucks, or Coca Cola which has taken the condensation off their logo to enter digital. We felt we had to go a little bit further and really retool to position us on a going forward basis.”

Seriously, who does that? How do you lead an entire rebranding process around the central goal of peer pressure? Although getting in the trend of other forward-moving brands will always be one of the sincere reasons to rebrand, imperative will always be the need to find other deeper motives and goals, develop a process that helps to achieve that, and do just that: rebrand and help us to see how you preserved the core but positioned for the future, or well, changed the course of mission.

The Juventus FC rebrand (earlier this year) gets that right for a reason. In the words of the design agency director: “The keystone of this brand is to make sure that Juventus is always going to be anchored to football, but that it is also going to be beyond football… We want their brand to stand for football at the core, but beyond that a philosophy that can appeal to people who are not necessarily football fans.” Dear F1, this is an example of what a rebrand sounds like.

More from Bratches: “If I were to have a poll of the number of people I’ve met and discussed the mark since I have gotten here, many of them have gone years and years without understanding the invisible space between the left and the right is actually a ‘1’.

Wow! Truth be told, while covering my eyes, I had also not see the hidden (but obvious to most of my teammates — designers at FourthCanvas) numeric letter 1 but then I, like a number of others who had not, always read the red swooshes as the 1. Reading F1 successfully could, for Bratches’ point be said to be a gradual marketing progress of over 2 decades but today, that is no longer problem. It rather only makes a memorable moment to find out and talk about, just like Fedex’s hidden forward arrow. I see a long-standing ‘error’ that has come to become a potential strength, murdered just right in time. RIP.

RIP

With all said, the visual of the new logo, for the sake of visual design and nothing more, actually looks good, especially given that we have had rebrands that fail both in the message and the look. I would have loved to mention Nigeria’s Fidelity Bank rebrand here but that would be wrong and unfair to do.

If I must restate for emphasis, the new logo looks beautiful, and especially when you imagine it for a car brand, like if Elon Musk had called his company Fesla1, and not Tesla.

Meanwhile what would Lewis Hamilton say?

“I think the one that we already had was an iconic logo,” said Hamilton. “I don’t think the new one is as iconic but maybe it will grow on us.”

Yes Hamilton, I think so too. We will all love the new F1 logo over time and it already looks good on some merchandise, but a rebrand that retained the blazing trails of speed, not too far from the 23-year old former logo you guys ever knew, would always be the new F1 logo we never had.

[RebrandReview with Victor Fatanmi (in short, RR) is a new monthly series to be ‘hosted’ by the FourthCanvas Art Director.]

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