As print material and content continues to meld rapidly with the digital realm, many businesses have been spurred to reimagine their approach in order to cater for a growing online audience. As an established Australian company that has a network of local marketing solutions, including Yellow Pages and Whereis, Sensis was in need of such a change. We spoke to Oliver Maltby, creative director at Interbrand, about the new identity design, and the role of public scrutiny in its launch.
Firstly, what were the key issues you attempted to address with the original identity design?
The original logo and name was created by Interbrand in 2000 when the world was a different place. Since then Sensis has changed dramatically – from a paper based directory service to a digital marketing services company. Revisiting the brand has been an opportunity to express these changes to Sensis’ customers and employees.
Sensis was previously the corporate brand for a host of well-known consumer brands like Yellow Pages, White Pages, TrueLocal and Whereis. Over time, each of the consumer brands had diversified their offers through digital products and services, meaning there was overlap across the portfolio. Interbrand was brought in to review the brand architecture and make strategic recommendations around how the brands should co-exist. The decision was made to elevate Sensis to become a focused B2B brand that could leverage the full suite of consumer brand services for its customers, depending on their requirements. The rebrand is the visual manifestation of this structural change.
How did you approach the visual reinvention of the brand?
We worked closely with a core team of clients at Sensis to create, test and refine a series of strategic imperatives for the business. With a clear understanding of the business and focus on what was important to communicate, we were able to move confidently into a design phase. We were fortunate to have direct access to John Allan, Sensis’ CEO, so were able to develop and refine our concept iteratively through a series of collaborative sessions. On the concept itself, our aim was to create a human brand that would make Sensis accessible to all of Australia’s businesses – from multi-nationals to sole traders. We aimed to reflect and embrace the qualities it takes to run a successful business of any shape or size. So the brand’s key visual cues came from thinking about it as resourceful, determined and industrious.
How does the new logo and identity resolve previous weaknesses of the identity design?
The old brand reflected a more formal and corporate past, whereas the new identity is simple, flexible and customer-focused. The new Sensis brand is designed to demystify technology and marketing, and help show what Sensis can do for its clients’ businesses. It seeks to be a platform for the business converse, and make meaningful connections with, its customers and employees.
In truth, the old brand was not much more than a logo – and for us any brand identity conceived today needs to be much more than this. The identity we created was designed to be powerful, emotive and human, and work across all contexts and channels. The logo was conceived somewhere along the way and is just one part of a thoroughly considered and multi-dimensional identity system.
Do you think the addition of animals invites the risk of appearing ‘too playful’?
The idea that corporate brands need to be serious and boring is outdated. Designing corporate brands to look serious and boring also invites risk in itself – the risk of blending into the background and not being heard. So for Sensis, we decided there was an imperative to inject personality and be more than wallpaper.
The characters we created all have a specific role to play. Each character represents a easily recognisable metaphor for a business problem that Sensis can help with. For instance, growth (Giraffe), knowledge (Owl) and technology (Robot). Each communication then uses one metaphor and straightforward copy to talk about an issue that Sensis can help your business with. The characters help make the brand story simple and, we hope, will create memorability.
What are your thoughts on the critical reception of the redesign?
It’s important to note that the external launch will take place over the next month when the brand will be operationalised. Nevertheless, early responses from branding websites such as Design Week and Brand New have been overwhelmingly positive so far.
It’s often difficult to separate historic service frustrations with a new brand, so I understand some initial scepticism about the project. But having worked closely with Sensis I’ve been privileged to see the steps they are taking to transform the organisation and customer service. So, once the brand launches and beds in, I think it will be received as positively as it has been internally.
Also, like many branding projects, the new Sensis identity has been subject to critique on the internet via blogs and other forms of social media. How do you feel about this? Is this an appropriate platform for design criticism to take place?
As far as blogs and websites being the right place to comment on design, it’s a difficult question. On one hand, most of the critics clearly are not practising brand or graphic designers – and it can be difficult to refrain from responding to silly comments posted from ‘keyboard warriors’. On the other hand I think it’s important that people have the right to express their views. We need discussion and debate, broadly. But as a community we tend to talk about colours, typefaces and logos far too much, which trivialises what the branding industry can truly offer. Ultimately we need to have informed discussions about the value of design rather than trivial “back and forth”s.