Friday Roundup – 14th November 2014

14th November 2014

As a graphic design studio in Newcastle we always take note of what’s happening in the wider design world. Lots can happen in just one short week so here’s a quick roundup of some of the bigger stories we’ve followed from the past seven days.

Use our quick links to read about:

Starbucks’s Eggnog U-Turn / Countries as brands / Pizza Hut Rebrand

Starbucks’s Eggnog U-turn

It’s clear that social media has revolutionised the way that people voice their opinions. Now, if you feel aggrieved about anything – a late metro, a disappointing episode of EastEnders – then you can take to Twitter or Facebook and instantly vent your spleen. Which is cause for concern for brand conscious companies who may find themselves on the sharp end of consumers’ wrath. Decisions about products and seasonal services used to be based on market research and any dissent from customers would be recognised in retrospect through surveys and feedback forms. Changes due to dissastisfaction could take months to be actioned. It was more sedate, more respectable.

But times have changed and social media has not only afforded customers the opportunity to voice their opinions instantly, but also given them a self-appointed responsibility to tell others what they think. The latest target of consumer ire has been Starbucks who committed the heinous crime of excluding Eggnog Latte from their festive menu. Twitter was ablaze with complaints – some wrote of their heartache at not being able to buy their favourite Christmas drink, others of their disgust and determination to never frequent Starbucks again. Along with the freedom and opportunities for being heard that social media gives people, it also clearly takes something away – perspective.

“These messages were emotional, personal. They told of times connecting with loved ones over an Eggnog Latte, how the Eggnog Latte became a tradition. We’re honored you care so much—and chagrined we risked dimming your holiday brightness, even a little.”

And so the revolting voices were heard and this week Starbucks apologised and agreed to reinstate the Eggnog favourite to their seasonal offerings. Which is no mean feat – with no plans to sell the drink this season they have had to very quickly get hold of enough eggnog from suppliers to meet their promise. The social media generation, as well as expecting to be heard, expect immediate satisfaction and the sooner Starbucks can deliver the sooner the dissent will die down. Far from retrospectively changing their approach, Starbucks has been forced into immediate action and it seems they have done a good job of dealing with the issue. Eggnog lattes for everyone!

Countries as brands

Following on the heels of Interbrand’s 100 Best Brands List released last month, Futurebrand have published their new report on the brand strength of 75 countries. Many people may not consider countries in terms of branding yet they are as much subject to the parameters of perception and identity as Apple, Starbucks or Barclays. The report makes fascinating reading especially for tourism managers or international traders looking to build on the opportunities (or overcome the barriers) of their country’s brand.

The list is compiled using a range of data including awareness, familiarity and associations. This year Futurebrand have also included a “Made In” criteria, assessing the positive perceptions of products’ country of origin. The report concludes that this extra dimension has a heavy influence on the rankings of certain countries. Japan tops the list this year ahead of Switzerland and Germany respectively. All three have strong “Made In” product perceptions (Japan with technology and automotive, Switzerland with confectionary and watches, Germany with automotive). The top 20 is heavily populated with European countries – 12 in total – with the United Kingdom clocking in at number 12.

The other major conclusion of the report is that not all countries can be called ‘Country Brands’. To be a country brand takes a strong collaboration between the different aspects researched in the report. Only 22 of the 75 countries involved in the report are classified as ‘Country Brands’ – that is, that they scored higher than average across all of the criteria measured by Futurebrand. The report is worth looking over for anyone interested in building business based on the positive associations with their country, but also for anyone with a broader interest in brand perception and effectiveness. The full report is available to download here.

Pizza Hut Rebrand

Last week we posted a Quick Spot article on the revisions that KFC were making to their UK restaurants and the effect this would have on their broader identity. This week, another fast food restaurant chain, Pizza Hut, is making big changes to their identity, starting with an upgraded logo.

The basic elements of the new logo remain the same – the Pizza Hut font and the ‘hat’ device – but they are now contained in a red stylised pizza. The red is a little more subdued than previous versions and the new pizza boxes and staff uniforms also include a liberal use of black. The logo is a decent evolution if not particularly exciting. What is more interesting is that the company is also completely overhauling their menu. Once the new menu is rolled out there will be 10 crusts, 6 sauces, 5 premium toppings, 5 new ‘drizzles’, 22 special recipes and an all new calorie-conscious Skinny Slice pizza.

It is a vast expansion of their offering, so much so that it may be a little too much for existing customers who are used to their current menu. Like KFC, Pizza Hut has been struggling recently but, unlike KFC, their approach is to give their customers a massive new choice in devising their pizzas. It feels a little like throwing everything at your consumer base and hoping that something sticks. As an occasional Hut customer, I have trouble enough spending twenty minutes choosing what side to have let alone navigating a menu that offers 1000 different ways to customise a basic pepperoni pizza. The new brand and menu rollout begins next week in the US – no word yet on when it will reach us here.