Sunday 28 September 2014

Lesoco's expensive rebrand thrown out after two years

There are times when I think I must be in the wrong job. 

Last week, further education newspaper FE Week revealed what I'd first heard several weeks ago, but which was confirmed when I glanced up at the big red brick building on Deptford Broadway as I passed it this evening and noticed this change.

Yes indeed, 'Lesoco' is no more.

If you weren't even aware of Lesoco in the first place, it's hardly surprising since it was only brought into being a couple of years ago after a major 'rebranding' exercise. The rebranding took place after Lewisham and Southwark Colleges (the latter judged 'inadequate' at the time) merged in 2012 and became Lesoco. Or LeSoCo as they liked to write it (*cringe*).

The piece in FE Week is interesting because it answers a question I'd been musing on - how much were 'consultants' paid to carry out this rebranding?

Almost £290k according to the results of FE Week's freedom of information request. 

The 'rebranding' was done by 'the world's most effective brand design consultancy' (according to its own website) Elmwood. Certainly effective at extracting payment for ageing cordage, perhaps. There was even a rather lame video made by another agency. 

Here's some of the guff that was written about the rebranding at the time: 

Elmwood chose the LeSoCo name as it blends the words Lewisham and Southwark, and was influenced by other amalgamated place names like New York’s Soho – a shortening of ‘South of Houston Street’. (Ah yes, of course that's relevant to a small college in south east London).

The visual identity depicts a folded page corner, which Elmwood says suggests ‘the building sense of anticipation that’s felt when you can’t wait to turn the page to your next assignment, your next module or the next chapter of your life’. (Oh good grief).

The graphic device surrounding the name uses an ‘L’ shape with the corner turned up, ‘revealing an exciting new future’, says Elmwood. The red and white colour palette was inspired by London iconography such as buses, post boxes and London Underground signage. 

Elmwood says, ‘At the heart of the LeSoCo vision is the strong belief that the two colleges united as one are greater than the sum of their parts, setting them apart from other London colleges through their mission to instill students with an enterprising spirit and equipping them with the skills they need for the future’.  (*guff detector goes into overdrive*)

Simone Davies*, LeSoCo director of marketing and communications adds, ‘The new branding reflects our aspirations for the future, it has signaled the beginning of the new: joining two organisations, post merger, in to one to create something new and exciting’.

Since the rebrand things have not gone well. Ofsted gave the merged college an 'inadequate' grade at the start of this year, and in June, principal Maxine Room 'stepped down' to be replaced by interim consultant principal Ioan Morgan.

It seems one of his first acts was to ditch the pointless name that was despised by staff and misunderstood by students. They have managed to re-use the expensive logo to bring it back to something that makes sense, but they are still stuck with a website url that makes little sense and presumably a whole load of other branded stuff that will have to be phased out. Not to mention a big hole in the finances.

*Update: I note that Simone Davies, director of marketing and communications, also left Lesoco in May of this year.


Anonymous said...

I suspect the 'client' (the college) may have come up with the 'concept' and the agency just went along with it - the statements the agency came up with are just an attempt to put the pig into a frilly frock.
The agency should be ashamed of themselves but no doubt the 'director of communication and marketing' could provide the words to get themselves (himself) out of the shit.
Another point worth making is that clients are often very poor at commissioning design and 'rebranding' because, by its very nature (hopefully) it's done infrequently

Deptford Dame said...

@anon I've just updated the piece after checking the whereabouts of the director of communication and marketing responsible for the fiasco.

If your theory about the concept is correct, surely an even bigger waste of money?! (and I'm definitely in the wrong job!)

Anonymous said...

yes, as you say, a big waste of money.

I'd misread the dir of mark and comm as coming from the agency, so, actually, as she was employed by LeSoCo you're right, an even greater waste of money.

But it's possible she was handicapped in her job by *her* overbearing superiors.

It's a big problem - people interfering outside their expertise - and graphic design (and associated) has suffered much from this for many years. ('Brand development' is also generally an assemblage of managers who've done a six month marketing course and think they know all about it . . .)

I'm sounding old and bitter, OK, I am old and bitter


Anonymous said...

Dame, you don't mention the widely held (but unchecked by me) belief that Lesoco means something in an African language that may be unflattering. It's probably an unfounded rumour, but I'd be interested to know if any of your readers know?

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the DLR didn't bother rebranding their signs and announcements!