Branding déjà vu… the new way forward?

Two recent high profile rebrands for Co-op and NatWest both have one thing in common - they have returned to their original 1960s logos. Is this approach simply nostalgia or smart creative thinking for the current climate?

For me the Co-op rebrand last year was good strategic design - bold, simple, and smart. The designers made the honest observation that the original 1960s logo was tough to beat - it was a lost design classic that hasn’t dated. The success of this approach was both in recognising the merit of the original and drawing on the ‘back to our roots’ associations in a contemporary way. It’s a brave strategy for a well-known brand to adopt. They are in effect admitting ‘we lost our way’ to a certain extent, but in the context of the Co-op, with it’s banking woes, it was less risky than a new, revolutionary rebrand. After all it’s an asset they already owned.

What makes this rebrand particularly successful is the bringing up to date in the wider application. It’s not simply nostalgic or in any way retro - it looks fresh, contemporary, even stylish and spot on to their market position.

The NatWest rebrand follows the Co-op’s lead. Here too the ‘new’ brand rewinds the evolution of the ‘three parts’ symbol, taking it back to its original 3D cubes motif from 1968. To me the reason for doing this is less strong than with the
Co-op given that the original logo is not a lost classic. The fact that the logo is the original version could be lost on todays audience, so a message of recovering past values of better times is not as relevant to the brand’s customers, but perhaps resonates more with the internal audience and other stakeholders.
Similar to the Co-op rebrand, the new NatWest branding is contemporary in feel and in no way attempts to hark back to the past. The brand is certainly refreshed; the extended visual language drawn from the 3D cubes logo is distinctive, lively and effective in its goal of standing out on a ‘noisy’ high street.
So in both cases, the approach perhaps reveals a branding strategy for the current climate - reinventing without reinventing. Co-op has pulled this off particularly well. In both cases the brief from the client was open to a rebrand, so credit goes to the agencies involved for stepping back, thinking creatively and strategically, drawing on each brands heritage and for reusing existing assets whilst at the same time creating something new and forward looking.



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