Hudson’s Bay Company introduced a new logo for its national retail chain, dropping “The Bay” and returning to the more formal “Hudson’s Bay” as part of the first major rebrand in nearly 50 years.
Patrick Dickinson, senior vice-president, core marketing & brand strategy North America at Hudson’s Bay Company, spoke with Marketing about the decision to change the logo, the future of those iconic stripes and the timing of the change in relation to a certain other retailer coming to Canada.
Has the name change been in the works for long?
We have been discussing it for a long time… You worry about “should we change it or should we not?” The other factor that we had to take into account is that our corporate structure has changed a lot in the last two or three years – being bought by the holding company, having Lord & Taylor as another division that was added to the corporate umbrella and selling the Zellers’ assets. We wanted to get all of that solidified before launching the new identity.
Everyone was up in arms when Gap changed its logo. People grow accustomed or attached to their favourite brand. Was there any trepidation or fear of backlash?
There’s always people who don’t like any change and that’s a risk you take. We did not do a lot of consumer testing prior to the logo change because it’s very difficult to get past that response. We felt reassured that it would be a move that was accepted by Canadians because, in many ways, we’ve said it’s a return to our more formal name. We’re not shortening it, we’re not abbreviating it, we’re not taking anything away from consumers really. We’re just going back to a more formal name that we were known for throughout 300 years of our history.
Is it your hope that people will now refer to the store as Hudson’s Bay?
There will always be a short form of Hudson’s Bay Company. Hudson’s Bay Company in and of itself is a short form of our formal title, which is The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay. I think it’s a sign of affection and a sign of comfort. I’m sure people will always call it the Bay. People call Bloomingdale’s “Bloomies” and Saks Fifth Avenue “Saks.” This is just a nicer and more contemporary piece of design to hang in our stores and on our packaging materials and our marketing, and we think it speaks to where the brand has evolved over the last couple of years.
At any point did you consider keeping it the Bay but changing the word mark/logo?
We looked at all options. I certainly felt strongly that getting back to something that was more traditional at least in terms of its roots would help people get over the fact that we were changing the logo. So the name went backwards but the logo went forwards. I think that was the best of both worlds in terms of this change.
Hudson’s Bay is known for the stripes. Are you going to incorporate colours into the word mark?
We don’t plan to. That’s not to say that at some point there might not be some novelty kind of uses where we might look to utilize the stripes, but we’ve been playing with the stripes for a long time now and looking at how they work and how they don’t work. Where it really works well is in product, where it’s going to be used subtly or as a very dominant design element. When you take those primary colours and try to wrap it into a logo or word mark, they’re pretty bright and they don’t necessarily sit well. We had stripes in the background of a simplified version of the crest and we just felt it was probably not doing service to either of those two things to mash them together.
When will storefronts change?
Storefront changes have to follow the renovation and restoration plans for the whole chain, so there won’t be one date where all the storefronts flip over. They will change over time. They’re obviously the most expensive elements to change. We’ll certainly be getting to a lot of our bigger stores within two or three years.
Because of the timing, people might speculate the logo change is in response to Target opening in Canada.
To a large extent we’re happy to have lots of competition in the retail space. It energizes the consumer and provides them more choice. We’re quite confident in our strategy at Hudson’s Bay that we are attracting more shoppers, we’re continuing to increase our sales, we’re creating a lot of loyalty amongst a whole new consumer base that we haven’t been talking to or meeting the needs of perhaps in the past. It was fairly coincidental that this was the element, which happens to be quite visible, was ready to go around the same time Target was opening. But if you look at some of the things we’ve announced, we’ve had innovations pretty constantly over the last three years from the opening of The Room, the Olympic deal, opening Top Shop franchises across the country, and we just relaunched our rewards program with significantly more value in that. It’s been a pretty steady stream of customer innovation.