If you’ve listened to our recent webinar, or seen us present lately, you’ll have heard us talk a lot about branding. Specifically, about distinctive assets – a term coined by marketing science guru Byron Sharp to describe the little, sometimes even meaningless details that let a brand stand out and live in the memory. A colour, a sound, a logo, a particular brand character or instant association – these things give a brand fluency, making it rapidly recognisable. Marketing science shows that it’s distinction, not differentiation, that really helps a brand grow.
That can feel a bit abstract, though. It doesn’t necessarily help with knotty questions like – how, and when, do you change a brand’s assets? How does refreshing a brand fit in?
One obvious answer is: you don’t change them. A look at Coca-Cola’s branding over the years shows a real consistency around first the logo, then the use of red. The one big exception? 1985, and the notorious launch of New Coke.
But sometimes brands decide they need a facelift, particularly if – unlike Coke – they aren’t market leaders. So we were interested to see news this week of Burger King’s new, consolidated approach to its packaging, by branding and design firm Turner Duckworth. It’s a case study in how a brand is managing its distinctive assets.
BK’s assets would include its logo, its yellow and red colour scheme, and its “Whopper” product name. They are all present and correct, but with different levels of emphasis. The logo features strongly, presented as a monochrome stamp (almost a literal brand!). The colours show up on individual packaging but are used more discreetly on the outer bags, anchoring an expanded palette with greens and browns.
It’s obvious what the overall idea is – all those earthy colours, stamped logos, and stencilled art on brick walls position Burger King as a little more authentic, organic, and straightforward than the garish fast-food operations of yore. What’s interesting to us is how Turner Duckworth have realised this without junking the brand’s distinctive assets, which means our quick-judging, System 1 brains are more likely to still get what we’re looking at. All rebrands are fraught with risk, but this ‘refresh’ at least feels a natural progression. Good luck to them.