The cost of a poorly designed brand identity.
Parked at the traffic lights last week my attention settled on the kerbside branding for a new Snap Fitness gym that had recently opened in our neighborhood. I was immediately struck by the poor quality of their brand identity design and the impact this must be having on their business over time.
The Snap brand identity has three key elements of visual language; the symbol, the logotype, and the brand colour/s.
• At best the red brand colour of Snap is shared with their competitor ‘Jets’, and at worst the colour is owned in the Australian market by Jets – a good reason to choose another brand colour.
• The typeface is fine, if a little dated and predictable. More important though, there is nothing distinctive, unique or ownable with the choice of logo-typeface.
• However, the symbol is the element that is the piece of visual language most wanting. There was a period of time back in the 1980s when stylized figures in brand marks were on-trend. Everyone from Government, events, sports facilities and clubs jumped on-board to create visual identities that captured the moment and the look that was resonating with the market. Over the next decade, more and more organizations adopted this visual style for their branding before the trend passed and business branding moved-on.
It seems not everyone has moved with the times. Snap (which I believe is a brand originating from the US) has a brand symbol which would have been market leading back in 1988, that in today’s competitive environment will be working to the detriment of the business. This critique is not based on personal taste or preference, but an understanding of the psychology of brand visual language gained from more than twenty five years working with hundreds of brands and their customers.
So why is this a problem?
A poorly designed brand identity can create many problems for a business, their staff and customers:
01. Dated brand visual language communicates a number of clearly negative messages to the market such as; out-of-date facilities, out-of-date equipment, old thinking, etc. These brand associations fly in the face of this new category disrupting fitness business model and I’m sure are not a good fit with Snap’s brand proposition, personality and belief system.
02. If the brand shares a similar visual language to other brands in the category, customers will likely become confused by their similar marketing. Further, the brand will not get the maximum cumulative value of investment in their communication. In my research I also came across Anytime Fitness, with a few more gyms in Australia, one of Snap’s main competitors. Whilst Anytime has a brand colour they can own in the market, they have a very similar brand symbol and an almost illegible brand logotype to-boot. It is unusual to find one of the market leaders in a category with such a poorly considered brand identity, to find two of them is a first for me. We could easily have focused much of this article on Anytime Fitness and the issues created by their choice of brand visual language.
03. If the brand shares visual language with a cohort of businesses or organizations that are less than inspirational (ie. 2nd and 3rd rate) the brand associations of that cohort will wash-over all brands who share that visual language. As this snapshot below illustrates, a quick glance at Google Images shows how many brands have a similar (also dated) style of symbol. Most compelling is that none of these brands have any level of category leading significance or aspiration. When designing brand visual language, it’s far better to have the worst house (smallest brand) in the best street (that shares visual language with the market leaders) than the best house in the worst street – you get the picture.
Brands that communicate negative associations, or associations that run contrary to their brand positioning, brands whose visual language and marketing communications are easily confused with competitors, or brands who share their visual language with a cohort of 2nd and 3rd rate organisations are putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage.
The pay-off for professional branding
The cost of investing in brand is constant and substantial, so it’s critical that a business gets a return on that investment. The return in the case of Snap and Anytime Fitness should be maximising the value of their marketing activities through unique, professional visual language that communicates the proposition and personality of the brand. The right visual language will drive more inquiries from the right types of people, will create a greater sense of brand aspiration (think Apple) leading to stronger brand loyalty and the ability to introduce a greater margin into pricing. A stronger more professional brand identity will attract more prospective franchise partners allowing for faster growth or a better caliber of franchisee (or both).
With more than 200 gyms each, both Snap and Anytime along with Jets are successful, growing businesses creating a new category. But as the three duke it out to see who will become the market leader into the future, brand equity for customers, franchisees and investors, and the positive impact on profit that branding delivers will likely be the difference between going hard or going home.
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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Pic courtesy Snap Fitness