Large companies with many disparate divisions or separate entities often suffer from a muddled visual identity, especially if some of those divisions have been taken on or inherited from third parties. It can be a large undertaking to unify the brand proposition of such a company as a whole whilst retaining an element of individuality in each of the sub-brands. The BBC is a great example of a large organisation with many sub-brands that manages to maintain a cohesive core identity whilst also allowing each division to assert its own personality.
Last month, Bauer Media unveiled a new rebrand set to be launched nationwide next year. The company is the largest privately owned publishing company in Europe with properties including Empire Magazine, FHM and 4Music as well as 17 radio brands from Absolute to Metro. It is the radio stations that are the focus of the unifying rebrand built around the idea of ‘Your’ radio and the slogan ‘Closer to You’.
The logo system, a bold bespoke word mark ‘Your’ overlaid with the stations’ names in white Gotham font, is nicely executed and certainly succeeds in unifying the visual identity of the many different stations operated by Bauer Media. However, if there was one situation where a range of different identities and logos was a positive strategy, it would be in local radio. Local radio stations exist in isolation from one another rather than as part of a broad network like the BBC. It is for this reason that people choose local radio – because it is focused on their immediate area and is committed and loyal to that community in the same way that its listeners are.
Furthermore, Bauer Media is not a well-known, trusted institution where its sub-brands benefit from close association with the parent, as is the case with the BBC. Most people will not have heard of Bauer Media and will have no positive associations with the company that can be used to leverage brand loyalty from its consumers. Rather, it is the local stations themselves that build and retain their listener base through user familiarity and, more importantly, through their own personality. Having a unique logo (whatever its design merits or flaws) and an idiosyncratic identity helps to gain and maintain the trust of its consumers.
Car stickers on the back windshield aside, when it comes to local radio stations, the logos are rarely the main selling point. But to homogenise their logos and fold them into a cohesive brand network, however smartly designed and implemented, is to remove the one thing that defines local radio – individuality.