Tosh Hall has a problem with companies that try to redefine themselves every three years, and the agencies that convince them to do it. In a world of constant change and upheaval, isn’t it comforting to be able to pick out your favorite brand of cereal on the shelf because of its easily identifiable colors and markings? When brands do big overhauls there’s always the risk they will alienate customers, so why take this chance? Hall will tell you, stick to what works.
As global executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie in New York, he knows a thing or two about this. He is responsible for the creative and strategic output of the agency for clients like Budweiser, Wheaties, Kashi, and Stella Artois. Previously, he was the creative director at Landor Associates. Although his resume is envy-inspiring to any young designer, he took the circuitous route to his career destination.
Hall studied economics and journalism in college, but ended up as a publication designer right out of college. Through the journalism school at the University of North Carolina, he learned how to lay out publications, and landed his first job at the UNC Press. He recalls working with the “craggy pressman” with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and ink smeared on his hands and shirt saying to him: “You can’t have twelve colors, dummy. Let me show you the four-color process.” Hall loved that entire experience and how it helped to shape him as a designer, though he admits that he had the worst portfolio when he moved to New York. “I found the transition to the real design world very difficult. It was a harsh wake-up call.”
Last month, Hall gave a presentation at the HOW Live Design Conference called “Dear Designers: Please Stop!” where he addressed the mistake of rebranding too often. Here he elaborates on that, and points to the most publicized brand overhaul failure in modern times and how that rocked the industry.
Why is it so wrong to redesign a brand every few years?
Well, I think it’s a bigger macro problem with marketing and companies in general. A lot of the companies that we work with, we’ve had long-term relationships with, and they often look to us as being the brand guardian. In some ways, your agency partners know more about your brand than the branders, the marketers, and the clients do. And I think because of a lot of the things that have happened in recent years—looking to drive performance quarterly, instead of looking at things over decades and over quarter-centuries—people want to make an impact very quickly. Especially on the client side.
Often people in marketing come in and they’re given a role in branding or packaging or advertising, and they have to make an impact, and they have to do it quickly, and then they move on to the next part of their career. And rarely do we see clients that stay on brands for long periods of time. I think the reason is because it reflects the marketing side of the clients we work with.
We have to constantly educate them, that it’s best for the brand to go in a long-term direction of health and growth instead of zigging, zagging back and forth between whatever the marketing plan du jour is, and a hope for short-term success.
Read the reset of the interview here.
Budweiser brand update by JKR.