In Response To … The Waterstone’s Rebrand

Posted on May 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


Waterstone’s have recently unveiled their new branding. Appearing on their website and across their stores, the new logo – a rounded, lower-case ‘W’ – and slogan – ‘Feel Every Word’ – has attracted a barrage of comments on the Bookseller website, many of them negative. Several commenters have likened it to and upside-down version of the MacDonalds golden arches.


Perhaps this just the inevitable backlash that always accompanies any sort of change – especially in digital forums, where it seems to be de rigueur to scathingly attack anyone and everything. Some of the comments are positive, deeming the logo ‘modern, simple and more adaptable’. Is it just the shock of the new that is putting people off?


I have to admit, on first glance, I wasn’t overly keen, and I still remain to be convinced. Ok, so perhaps Waterstone’s previous branding was looking rather old-fashioned, but I think that this was possibly actually a draw to many people. The fact that Waterstone’s is still just about clinging on to its role as a ‘traditional’ bookshop and has been on the high street for years inspired loyalty, I’m sure. Then you have to consider the sort of customers that Waterstone’s attracts. I have absolutely no evidence for this, but would assume that Waterstone’s is supported by reasonably traditional, heavy book buyers who have resisted the allure of Amazon and shiny new toys. Does the new logo risk alienating the old customers and not attracting new ones?


The new branding does look ‘modern and simple,’ I don’t deny that. It just looks a bit like someone has been very lazy when designing it, in my opinion. Again, the old logo wasn’t exactly ornately detailed, but the new one looks like the work of about ten minutes. Having said that, I think when taken in the context of the entire website design it does look more impressive. The clean lines of the site and the use of white space are complemented by the simplicity of the logo. And in-store, with the ‘w’ being treated differently for each genre, things start to get a bit more interesting.


And how important is branding anyway? I think the answer is definitely ‘very important’ – but I’m sure that people buy from Waterstone’s for other many other reasons. Most people seem to agree that the reasons for Amazon’s phenomenal success are to do with price, range and convenience. One would think that Waterstone’s would do better to concentrate on its own USP, the luxury of book-buying and the knowledge of its staff, rather than faffing around trying to fix something that isn’t necessarily broken.


To be fair to Waterstones, perhaps this is exactly what it is doing. The new look is perhaps the management’s attempt to signify a break with the old, dark days of the hub, three for twos and generic window displays. Since the much-publicised appointment of Dominic Myers as MD, the company has pledged to return to what many saw as the golden age of the chain, when local managers and booksellers had autonomy and expertise, and helping and advising individual customers was more important than centralised promotions. The new logo is, you’d hope, an attempt to move Waterstone’s image forward in the public psyche, towards a more positive future. And good luck to them. I think pretty much everyone in the publishing industry wished Waterstone’s success.


But I still think the slogan is going to make most people cringe…