Oct. 02--The middle of the night is not the usual time to try some painting but travel group Thomas Cook was secretly adorning its aeroplane tailfins with a new "sunny heart" logo in the early hours of yesterday. It was part of a major rebrand, unveiled hours later, which will see all of Thomas Cook's subsidiary companies use the heart logo and a new slogan, "Let's Go", as part of a group identity.
The celebrated "Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it" advertising slogan, first introduced in 1984, has been dropped, along with its longstanding globe logo.
The logic is clear: in a global, inter-connected age, companies want simple, unified branding that works across multiple languages and territories. Thomas Cook says research showed the old globe logo didn't resonate emotionally with customers while "Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it" failed to translate well from English.
What's more, there's a school of thought that having a trusted parent company name can provide a halo for subsidiary brands within the group _ and save on marketing costs. The UK owner of mobile firms Orange and T-Mobile has been investing in a new parent brand EE with some success.
Thomas Cook's rebrand has yet to impress. The sunny heart looks bland and the typography lacks polish while it is hard to get excited about "Let's Go". There could even be confusion as there is a student travel guide publisher called Let's Go and Ryanair's in-house magazine is also called Let's Go.
Thomas Cook chief executive Harriet Green largely used an in-house team on the rebrand, with as many as 300 staff having input, rather than relying on external branding experts (a Swedish agency is said to have done some work). Some will say the fact the rebrand was done in-house shows. Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer's recent, lacklustre redesign of its corporate logo _ the first change in 18 years _ was also done by an internal team.
Green and Mayer have something in common. Both are new bosses trying to turn around companies with legacy problems. They recognise the company brand or logo sends out an important message, especially online where everything can be seen and shared.
Companies in need of radical change are often most keen on rebranding. Debt-laden Yellow Pages owner Yell renamed itself hibu last year, even though management admitted it had no meaning, and media company Emap rebranded as Top Right Group because it wants its revenue and profit graphs to point to the top right.
Little wonder rebrands are often contentious. US clothing company Gap got such a bad reaction to a washed-out, sans-serif redesign of its logo in 2010 that it did an abrupt U-turn.
However, initial reactions are not always right. The graffiti-style logo for the 2012 Olympics, designed by branding agency Wolff Olins, was called a "puerile mess" when it was unveiled in 2007, yet it became a memorable part of the Games. More recently, ITV came under fire when it rebranded with a colourful wavy logo. But it looked better than a previous, ugly yellow version and went on to win design awards. Arguably the logo expressed _ and accurately reflected _ a renewed confidence in the broadcaster since the 2009 slump.
While Thomas Cook is bringing its subsidiary brands closer together, keeping them separate _ a "house of brands" approach _ has benefits. When Royal Bank of Scotland collapsed in 2008, it moved subsidiary NatWest to the fore, showing it's possible to rejuvenate a brand by mining its history.
A generation ago, some dismissed brands as being devoid of value. But in the internet age, when virtually all of us have become personal brands through social media and we encounter companies at the click of a button, branding matters more than ever.
This week, Apple leap-frogged Coca-Cola to become the world's most valuable brand with a notional value of $98 billion (pounds sterling 61 billion), up 28 percent on a year ago, according to branding agency Interbrand's annual survey. Yet this is a year when Apple's stock market value has tumbled $200 billion amid fears it has lost its creative edge.
The paradox is that it is impossible to put a value on a brand, but we know when it works.
For the second year running, Google UK handed its annual accounts early to the Daily Telegraph, rather than filing them first to Companies House - although this year it chose late September, rather than burying the news in August during the Olympics. Why might the web giant favour the Telegraph? Apart from the two companies having offices opposite each other in Victoria, Google UK boss Dan Cobley had a spell as a non-executive director on the Telegraph board last year. Giving the paper first sight of the results didn't do much to defuse the controversy over Google's corporation tax avoidance - it paid just pounds sterling 11.6 million on pounds sterling 3 billion of sales as that made the Telegraph's front page.
Following this column's story about Guardian Media Group holding a board meeting in New York, the US charm offensive continues with a huge upbeat profile of editor Alan Rusbridger (pictured) in The New Yorker. Two good details: Rusbridger will stay as editor "a while" longer (many think he wants to beat predecessor Peter Preston's 20-year stint by lasting until 2015). And Roger Alton of The Times is quoted as saying he would not have published one of The Guardian's biggest recent scoops from Wikileaks "in that form. I thought it was taking material and throwing it at the market without looking at what damage it caused". The New Yorker didn't mention Alton left as editor of sister paper The Observer after he fell out with Rusbridger.
Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail since 1992, will continue in the role after his 65th birthday in November. "Paul Dacre is not stepping down," Viscount Rothermere, chairman of parent company DMGT, tells Tatler, squashing speculation about the matter. "Indeed, he has just agreed to a new contract."