Re was commissioned to create a brand new identity for Optus, Australia's second-largest telecommunications company. The launch of the rebrand will coincide with a range of improvements and innovations in Optus' products, service, network and billing. The aim: to help turn it into Australia's most-loved service provider. Re's creative director Jason Little and designer Alex Creamer talk us through the process.
The design brief
Established in 1992, Optus is the second largest telecoms provider in Australia. Setting out to be the people’s champion, the brand offered choice in a monopolised industry and regularly introduced innovations. In recent years, Optus has concentrated on price competitiveness and market growth, but as the market reached saturation, the company realised it needed to shift its focus back to its customers.
As a result, Optus began re-engineering itself with the goal of becoming the most-loved service provider in Australia, offering a whole series of improvements in its products, service, network and billing. The best way to communicate that to customers was to refresh the brand’s identity at the same time. As part of M&C Saatchi Group, Re had already worked with the company on smaller projects over the previous 12 months. What started as a conversation about the future of Optus eventually led to a rebrand discussion. Soon after, we embarked on brand new positioning and a complete identity overhaul for the telco company.
The aim of the new identity was to build greater positivity, optimism and an emotional connection with Optus' customers. In a market dominated by formal and formulaic brands, the rebrand need to offer a clear departure from what many Australians had come to expect of a large telecommunications provider. To that end, the identity needed a new voice that was friendly, easy to understand and laced with humour.
Re's biggest challenge was making sure Optus would be willing to accept a radical approach to what it knew and was used to. The initial discussions were to simply evolve the brand, and certainly not touch the logo. In the end, we went much, much further than that.
Work in progress
With all projects, however big or small, Re does as much research as possible - in this case a full audit of global telcos, from the good to the bad. The process took a couple of weeks, but enabled us to understand what was out there, what we should avoid and - more importantly - what hadn't been achieved before.
We presented two routes to the client. Route one - a character brand - was selected unanimously by everyone in the ad agency. This fitted most comfortably with the brand strategy we’d created and gave us a lot of creative licence. Route two was a playful take on the words 'Optus' and 'Yes' - an interplay of two shapes in constant shifts. On two separate occasions while presenting to the ad agency and the client, we were stopped after route one was presented. Both were emphatic that a character-based brand direction was for them. In fact they liked it so much that apart from typeface and character development, the brand stayed pretty true to that initial presentation.
The character development was an exciting challenge. First off, we briefed three illustrators to reinterpret and develop our initial mascot design, finally selecting one overall 'character guardian', Marco Palmieri. It's been a pleasure working with Marco and all the long hours, for him and for us, have paid off.
As we were given three months to take the rebrand from concept to implementation, we had to pull out all the stops to get the project completed on time. Throughout the process the core Optus team fluctuated in size, depending on what needed doing, with up to 15 different people working on it at its peak.
As Optus already had strong colour ownership in Australia, there was no point in throwing that away: its yellow and dark blue make the brand instantly recognisable. However, we introduced a more vibrant teal to bridge the gap between the old look and the new. The typeface we created was a labour of love too, taking the best part of two months to create with French typographer Mathieu Réguer, and the inclusion of some hand-painted letters by Jason.
I think our biggest achievement has been keeping the rebrand true to our initial presentation. I have never worked on a project which, at some point in the development, hasn't been compromised or changed in some way. On a personal level, working on a project of this magnitude has been a huge learning curve. Exploring tone of voice, critiquing work from outside sources and presenting to the client have all been relatively new experiences for me.
As far as the audience reaction goes, it's still too early to say. However, the response both internally and externally has been very positive. People are talking about Optus and it seems to be on its way back to being a brand with the interests of its customers at heart.
There's always pressure as a creative to achieve a result that will deliver on all the requirements of the brief, yet takes a leap further. When you have the responsibility to the client and all their employees to deliver something they can rally around and support, it's critical you get it right. Luckily, the groundswell of positivity within the organisation and its customer base means that, hopefully, we did our job.
Jason Little is Creative Director and Alex Creamer is Designer at Re.
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