posted by Lauren on April 20th, 2011
Lately I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about branding. (I know, you’re shocked.)
Whether it’s a rebranding project at the agency, or a brand that I come in contact with during my daily life, I have a lot of trouble disconnecting and not thinking about how these brands are managed. I admire brands that are able to stay true to themselves in the real world. And sometimes, when I see a brand making a few missteps, I can’t help thinking about how it could be managed a little better.
One brand that is part of my everyday life, you’ll find it on my nightstand or in my bag, is Shape magazine. I’ve been a Shape reader for a few years now; and through the years they’ve done a lot right–including having a pretty nice visual presentation of their content. I mean, it’s no Dwell, but it’s readable, seems to fit with the content in the mag and feels true to who Shape’s been.
Last November, Shape’s longstanding editor-in-chief, Valerie Latona, left the magazine and Tara Kraft took her place. Ms. Kraft has a solid history in magazines; within a few months of her arrival, it was obvious that Shape was changing visually. Under Ms. Kraft’s leadership, Shape has changed their magazine-wide typefaces (one of which is now a rather dramatic serif font), incorporated different shapes and swipes on their cover, and even seems to have slightly changed their logo type treatment (look at that first S in Shape for clues to this change.)
November 2010 May 2011
Now, I know that any brand, including Shape, is made up of many different parts. While a visual representation of the brand is a vital component to ‘who’ the brand is, a brand is more than just its visuals. It’s a feeling. It’s a story. It’s something that makes you want to belong. It’s that thing that makes you want to pay more money for one product (or service) over another.
I’ve got to say – I don’t love the way that Ms. Kraft has been managing the visual aspects of Shape’s brand. Was there a need to give the magazine a bit of a face-lift? Maybe. Do I think that the face-lift it got is true to its brand? Not really. To me, it’s making the brand a little less current, maybe even talking to a slightly different demographic. Mostly, it just doesn’t FEEL like Shape anymore.
THREE THINGS TO NOTE:
1) Brand Management:
It’s interesting how in magazines the editor-in-chief can play such a large role in the management of a brand. I mean, who doesn’t think of Anna Wintour when you hear Vogue? And do you remember the sense of anticipation when Tina Brown took over Newsweek. So I ask, is an editor-in-chief really just a brand manager?
2) Nerdy Typography:
Also, Tina Brown’s Newsweek seems to be using a slightly-similar-to-Shape serif typeface on its redesigned cover. Is this a new trend in magazine design?
3) And most importantly:
Should we even be talking about brand managers as people who are employed by the brand? Who tells a brand’s story? Is it someone who interacts with the brand through digital media in a blog post like this one?