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Just Can’t Say No

By June 25, 2015January 9th, 2017Design

Optus has finally, after umpteen years, updated their brand. I remember wondering how much longer the company would continue to squeeze value out of the ‘animals’ theme back in the late nineties, and since then they’ve become a byword for ‘tired old brand’. Well, probably in response to profits finally declining, they decided to do something about it.

You can see the new brand in detail here. I can’t deny that this is a pretty strong identity with a certain amount of character, but it is interesting to reflect on how little a brand has to do with the actual function of a company these days. With our endless appetite for new communication streams and media, the integration and intrusion of brand into every facet of our lives, brands aren’t about the company anymore, they’re about the ‘feeling’ the company wants you to have when you think about them.

No matter that Optus service is widely regarded as crap (I may be slightly biased, since I lost some money on a few shares I bought in them back in the nineties), or that Australians almost universally hate telcos and feel like they are ripping us off. As long as the brand can establish a touchy-feely impression of niceness in all our heads by amusing us with little animated yellow characters, bright colours and slightly cheeky copywriting (delivered in a barrage of advertising), the job is done.

…it could just as easily be the brand for a children’s toy store, a daycare centre or a manufacturer of bouncy castles.

Of course this new brand will be incredibly sucessful. But considering Optus has been boring us all with ads of stock footage of animals for the last twenty years, I respectfully submit that almost anything would have been successful at this point. And does it have longevity? Friendly, rounded fonts and bright colours are very fashionable right now, but will this brand quickly date when they go out of fashion?

I sound cynical—and I am—because I miss the cleverness. This is a very professional brand, and so it should be, since it was done by M&C Saatchi’s brand consultancy Re and probably cost the equivalent of the GNP of some small African countries. They could give you pages and pages of impressive words describing how it’s a ‘lifestyle brand’, or that the concept of a ‘logo’ is now obsolete. But it could just as easily be the brand for a children’s toy store, a daycare centre or a manufacturer of bouncy castles. It says nothing about Optus to me except that it immediately rings my bullshit bell—‘yes’ says Optus, over and over. It reminds me of the customer service robot in this trailer for the film Elysium.

Personally, I would have been more impressed by a new brand that isn’t quite so blatant in its self-assurance that I will be charmed by its childishness. After all, an adult has to say no sometimes.

August 2016 Update: Well, that lasted less than three years.