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Looking Backwards at the Future of Brands

Why is the train I am sitting on dual-branded?

I am on a train to Paddington after one of those days that has been so productive so far, I would only need to work one day a week.

Being up at 5.30a.m. in our house is pretty standard behaviour of late. The mornings are getting lighter, the bin men have the recycling to empty and the seagulls are back. Oh, and our beautiful Beatrice now knows how to open her curtains so if there is the merest hint of daylight, she comes in to let us know.

From then it was taxi at 6.15 to Brighton station by 6.20. Ticket, coffee, train at 6.30. Victoria 7.30. Tube, Paddington 8.10, Train 8.15. Cardiff 10.15. Walk past Millennium Stadium. Get rained on. Quite good coffee in gentrified Canton. Meeting with architect, project manager (friend of client) and various builders and decorators at 11.00 to try to put back together the C4 ‘Grand Designs’ award-winning eco house that I bought 12 years ago because I ‘liked the look of it’.

I still love the place, don’t get me wrong, but it just isn’t holding up to the test of time like the rest of the houses in the street. A Victorian street. A Victorian street where things were built to last. The meeting went well, and I am now about to become considerably poorer.

I’m now back on the train and, glancing up from my laptop (similarly suffering the same durability as the house, and out of date just 6 months after purchase), I noticed that the gentleman opposite me was drinking from a cup with what looked like an original GWR logo on it. ‘Strange’, I thought – ‘A heritage paper cup? an anniversary celebration? A rebrand?’ Above me is an antimacassar (great word, need to look at spell check) with the same logo, and then a welcome onboard sticker on the window also sporting that same GWR logo.

How then am I sitting in a tired blue and pink carriage (a colour scheme that has often bemused me) and why does the door have a First  Great Western logo on it (the one with a pink F in a circle)? Indeed, the train on the way here was entirely First Great Western pink and blue, not a GWR in sight. Although thinking about it now, the probably soon-to-be-made redundant ticket collector was wearing a green/grey uniform.

I’m in a mid-brand carriage. Or mid-brand carnage. Or something. And something isn’t working. How can this be such a mess? A swift look at the internet tells me the rebrand was launched in September 2015 (I have to say that one passed me by, but I’m not much of a train spotter, to be honest).

A quick look at their website confirms that they are indeed now GWR and harking back to a logo and name from 1833. First Great Western is no more.  Except for the very vehicle that they are selling, the one that I am sitting in, the one that is taking me home to Brighton, the pink and blue one. With the pink F, you get my drift.

It is good to see we are returning to brand solidity, brand confidence and brand with meaning. It says so much of the moment. People are harking back to the good old days, trying to induce some of what was back into what now is. And perhaps returning  to the days when customer loyalty and service were key.

The Co-op have gone the same way, and our lovely client Kuoni is going mad for the high street again in an age where trigger happy internet holiday bookers  don’t care if they travel by antelope or stork, as long as they get there. But if you are going to commit, commit and do it quickly and efficiently. And stick to your guns. And know why, how and when you are going to get there. If you can confuse an easily-confused brand man like me, think how your customers must be feeling.

In the meantime, I have cancelled the builders, put off the decorators and decided that I am off back to Cardiff to knock down my 2005 eco house and rebuild it with something more substantial and Victorian that will stand the test of time.

PS: Mum and dad, if you are reading this, sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming to Cardiff and sorry I didn’t pop in for a cup of tea. It was all very last minute you see.

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