One year into its three-year rebuild programme, the Co-operative Group is starting to step away from ‘The Co-operative’ branding.
The Vital Five, Winning Ten programme, aims to fully deliver the Group’s purpose of ‘Championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities’. One of those programme’s objectives is to “reposition The Co-operative brand for customers, members and colleagues”.
According to the plan, work started in June 2014 to develop a visual identity and business case, as well as recommendations to implement the new brand.
It has so far focused on the Co-operative Group’s business, including its corporate and membership function, but has not yet officially notified other consumer co-operatives who share ‘The Co-operative’ brand. It’s also unclear how this affects joint-ventures, such as the Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Travel.
The original ‘The Co-operative’ branding was developed by the Group over a number of years and piloted in 2004 in response to a recommendation to bring together a multitude of Co-op fascias across the country from more than 30 societies.
In 2001, the Co-operative Commission report that looked at the state of the sector and recommended the need for a common logo across more than 30 different societies. It said the movement needed to “develop a common national co-operative branding approach”.
The Commission, which was set up in 2000 with the support of the then prime minister Tony Blair, said “the mistakes of fragmentation of the past must not be repeated. In delivering new products and entering new markets there should be a common brand, common performance standards, and shared services.”
It added: “There needs to be an understanding of co-operative values and principles and the ability to communicate these to customers.”
During the Group’s crisis in 2013, it suffered “significant reputational damage” according to the society’s three-year planning document. Research also showed ‘The Co-operative Group’ brand was perceived as old fashioned, and that most members and customers recognised it as ‘The Co-op’.
And referring to the Group as ‘The Co-op’ has become more acceptable over the past 12 months when previously the very mention of the name was heavily policed across the society – instead, the only way was ‘The Co-operative’.
A hark back to the ‘good old days’ should receive member approval, but one of the major stumbling blocks will be the financial cost, especially in today’s tough retail climate. In 2008, the News reported that a rebrand and refit of 1,500 stores to ‘The Co-operative’ was a £200m expenditure.
It may be that the current interiors of stores are fit for purpose, and this is a logo change. Though, such a change is not straightforward, especially when taking into account the thousands of product lines.
Is the business case strong enough to spend what could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds to bring back ‘The Co-op’?