How to de-rail a good rebrand
First Great Western, the people who run trains out to the West of England, are doing the ‘brand refresh’ thing. It’s been building for a while: there have been stories on posters about people in hard hats who are ‘Great Westerners’; They have an on-trend flat design website, and now — ta-da! — they’ve changed their name back to Great Western Railways.
And it’s good stuff*. The new livery looks smart and classic without being retro. The whole ‘return of Great Western Railway’ tone is convincingly proud of something solid and British, without going annoyingly over the top (‘to fly, to serve’, anyone?).
But then today I saw this ad on the tube:
Oh, blimey. Suddenly it’s all gone to pot. What are they talking about?
Leaving aside the awkward punctuation — presumably meant to make it sound like a Grand Speech, but actually just making it sound up itself), and the fact that it uses a whole load of jargon that most people reading it won’t have the foggiest about (Who the hell are FirstGroup? What’s a livery? what’s the ‘franchise’?) the main problem is that they just shouldn’t be saying any of this.
I’m calling this brandsplaining. To mansplain that for you: that’s when brands copy and paste the brief they gave to the brand strategy agency directly into their comms. (Yeah, I know. Good, eh?.)
Getting your words just right is vital for any brand.
But sometimes the way to get them right is just to shut up.
*The faintly sniffy tone of the first paragraph is because I catch one of their trains to work every day, which means we’re trapped in the kind of co-dependent relationship that means whatever they do, I’ll always want to drag up all the old arguments about how they left me stranded at Tilehurst that day, etc etc.