Looking back for the Future

We seem to have encountered a slew of epic battles in recent times. Trump v Biden for the US Presidency, Nadal v Djokovic for the number one spot. But who would have thought that Co-op v Aldi would be such an enthralling battle for who takes fifth spot in the UK supermarket Super League.

OK, we accept that it’s not exactly ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ but what’s interesting about this particular battle is that a good while back Aldi announced that they’re returning to a retro-style identity which means that they’ve now both adopted the same look back strategy … Star Wars light saber’s at the ready, let the battle commence.

It raises the question of ‘what’s so forward thinking about looking back?’

Co-op, the ever-present and much loved high street retailer took the bold decision to look backwards for its new identity. The unmistakable ‘Co-op blue, four leaf clover’ that we grew up with returned in abundance and has slowly begun to filter across the raft of brand touch-points that a major retailer can boast.

This interesting facelift for the retailer cost an estimated £1.7bn and was designed to breathe fresh life into the 172-year-old brand after a period of uncertainty, underperformance, and uncomfortable headlines.

The psychological thinking behind revisiting a brand’s heritage often focuses on the recreation of a point of happiness for the customer, a point where times were good. In Co-op’s case they have taken their main stay customer of today and have returned them to a point in their lives when houses cost less than £10,000, Simon and Garfunkel were singing about Mrs. Robinson and we all rode round on Choppers … ah happy days, and that’s exactly what we’re meant to feel as a customer. Positive, warm and fuzzy.

As the well-used phrase goes, ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’ and last week the German supermarket retailer Aldi unveiled its very own ‘look back branding’. They haven’t gone quite as far as 1968, mainly because they don’t have that sort of logo heritage but they have returned to 1982 with a softer, three-dimensional branding with a brighter colour palette that’s distinctly reflective of the early eighties.

The point is, the two brands are thrashing it out for grid position in the supermarket Grand Prix and they’ve both adopted the same retro branding strategy. The concept of ‘brand new, old-fashioned ideas’ is a decent one especially if your business has a healthy degree of heritage attached to it. As in the case of Co-op, it can demonstrate significant confidence and it invariably aims to take the customer back to the ‘happy place’ we’ve mentioned.

But as with any historical return ticket don’t be tempted to gloss over the complete and true picture. As much as we loved gliding around aimlessly on our Chopper bikes in the summer of ’79 we have to remember that they were truly awful bikes. The Brotherhood of Man should never have been allowed in a recording studio and the three-day week wasn’t exactly positive.

And finally, we’ll end with a good old-fashioned call to action – If you’re a brand with some serious heritage and need an experienced eye on your identity please do give Just Enough Brave a shout.