Mar 02, 2011

When a world class identity designer (e.g. Gillette, Bank of America, Lockheed Martin) moves from The Big City to rural central Pennsylvania, you can bet that central Pennsylvania will soon look more big-time.  This was set in motion last June, when Bob Wolf resettled his family in York, PA, and soon answered an RFP from Bill Shipley's family-owned regional home heating company, whose vans and tanker trucks loom large in the region's visual environment. 

Why rebrand? It's a textbook case of the use of identity change, by a leader, for multiple purposes:

  1. Strategic broadening: 
    "We are changing because today we are no longer just oil. Natural gas now as big as our oil business. Propane gas was not even on the horizon 15 years ago—and Shipley is now a recognized leader in our region. And we continue to push toward a future that includes electricity."
  2. Brand consolidation & unit cohesion. 
    "One central brand idea across our lines of businesses"
  3.  Support a culture of dynamism. 
    "We're changing because it's what we do. Shipley is constantly reinventing itself [and] the industry"
  4. Refresh, renew employee energy...
    "Re-energize the talents and commitment of our caring associates"

In addition, Bill Shipley recognized that the old mark "did not go far enough to represent the Shipley Energy of the present and future," in stature and quality impressions. It featured a helicopter, once but no longer used for emergency fuel deliveries (snowmobiles are now more cost-effective), thus irrelevant to customers in newer service areas. 

Wolf's design solution features an abstract circular symbol plus a strong visual system, whose curved green forms evoke the rolling hills of Shipley country.

The launch event was an arena party for 400 employees and guests with film, music and an unveiling of three vehicles. In his thank you note to Wolf that evening, Bill Shipley said "The space was perfect, the lighting dramatic, the sound outstanding and the rolling back of the curtains made for a spectacular finish. There were ooohs and aaahs and cheering and …wow…the room was transformed by the performance."

So too, let us hope, was the company.

Credits:
C.E.O. - William Shipley III
Identity counsel - Bob Wolf with Völckmann & friends
Communications counsel - Ohlin Associates
Identity design - Bob Wolf, Wolf Design Partners

First Impressions:

Strategy:  A strategic and creative rebranding well conceived, planned, sourced and executed.

Design:  The logo itself (symbol/wordmark) is straightforwardly functional, and conveys a professional impression. I must confess I struggled at first with the impulse to see an S in the symbol, or otherwise to read meaning into it. But then, when I also saw the green forms of the secondary visual system, the symbol became a landscape reference (and reminded me, incidentally, of Bob's Bank of America symbol). For me, these separate hill forms seem a more powerful visual identifier than the logo itself.

In fact, this program exemplifies a growing trend toward more comprehensively designed and more assertive "secondary" visual elements. We saw this last year in Wolff Olins' PwC, and we'll see more as Starbucks rolls out the new patterns and other elements of its Lippincott-designed visual system. Ken Cato (of Cato Partners) has actually trademarked his own name for this technique: "Broader Visual Language™."


Other Comments:

Q: How did client Shipley find designer Wolf ?
A: Through contacts resulting from Wolf's probono work in the York community.

Full disclosure: Bob Wolf is a design associate of Tony Spaeth / Identity. You will see his work again in a forthcoming Review.