Ageing Gracefully

When a company is 106 years old, it has every right to be proud of its traditions. But in a marketplace where relevance is the key to competitiveness, history can be just as much of a burden as a benefit. Here’s how we helped Grace, one of Australia’s most iconic companies, with a major rebranding project — and brought them blasting into 2017.



Looking Back

Grace. It’s a name that’s always carried sentimental resonance for Aussies. Many have relied on Grace Removals to help them move house. Others have shopped at Grace Bros. department stores. People might not be able to tell you the exact year in the 1800s that the first company store appeared in Sydney’s George Street, but you can guarantee they’ll have a sense of the brand’s iconic place on the Australian mantelpiece.

But after the department stores were rebranded as Myer in 2004, the Grace name seemed to fade. The Internet arrived, followed closely by smartphones, and attention spans declined in inverse proportion to the volume of cat videos on YouTube. The Australian collective memory of Grace became muddled and vague. Had it even been a real store, or was it just a dream? Hadn’t Donald Trump tweeted about it or something? Today, the most exposure the average person has to the Grace brand is an occasional glimpse of red letters on the side of a passing truck. And that’s if they happen to be looking up from Candy Crush at the time.

Behind the scenes, however, Grace has been doing anything but fading away. They’ve been growing, developing no less than nine separate corporate divisions, with 101 service lines in everything from records management to insurance, from business services to fine-art transport. No, my friends, the company that approached us for a rebranding project at the end of 2015 was hardly some faded flower. It was a confident commercial powerhouse striding boldly into the future — a future it wanted to face with a strong contemporary identity that paid homage to its 106-year history.

Such a tremendous rebranding project alone would have kept us plenty busy. But we had another challenge: Grace’s nine divisions all had different ideas about what their updated identity should look like. We realised the Grace rebranding project was going to be about more than just updating a treasured Australian icon. We were going to have to unite it as well.

Stepping Up

The first thing we needed to do was get a real sense of Grace as a company.

Carl Jung said that people don’t have ideas — ideas have people. What he meant was that ideas are fragmented across many people and only really take shape when folks come together. If you agree with old Carl (we do) and apply that idea to a sense of company identity, it means that no single staff member or customer ever has an all-encompassing sense of an organisation. That’s something that takes real effort and time to tease out. We’d have to develop that for Grace.

To get a handle on the Grace identity, we started by flying and phoning all around Australia, conducting interviews with key personnel. We also sent out over a thousand surveys to Grace staff, and almost twelve thousand to Grace’s customers. The process created an absolute mountain of data, with 150 hours of insights from interviews alone. At the same time, the research revealed a lot of cobwebs in the form of attachments to old ways of doing things. It helped us understand the kind of resistance we’d be likely to face when it came time to present creative ideas.

We processed all the data we’d collected over several months, and slowly a rough picture of Grace’s identity began to emerge. It was a fascinating creature, and we couldn’t wait to share our results with Grace. We had to be careful, though. The last thing we wanted to do was present our findings as definitive. The identity-building process was only half complete.

Before we could start working on creative ideas, we needed everyone to be on the same page. We compiled a preliminary report and arranged workshops between our creatives and Grace’s senior staff. We wanted to deploy the information we’d gathered in a way that would stimulate discussion between different parts of the organisation, and guide them towards a new understanding of Grace as a united brand.

The workshops gave Grace exactly what it needed to come together as one — and it gave us exactly what we needed to get creative. We went away and came up with a series of experiments designed to prime Grace for an eventual dramatic change in their brand’s look and feel. And then we came up with more experiments. And then even more. We experimented and tested our way into three possible new brand directions.

The first was only a minor update to the original brand, something to tempt the conservative thinkers out of their shells.

The second was a big step up, the ultimate combination of conservative and contemporary.

And the third… the third was a radically modern concept — a huge leap forward — that would totally revolutionise Grace’s image. It was the one they were least likely to choose, and the one we most hoped they would, because we’d spent months preparing them for just such a tectonic shift in identity.

Unfortunately, they chose the second one.

Leaping Forward

For a day. Then they took the incredibly brave step that we’d been encouraging them to take all along — and chose the third option.

(The crowd goes wild)

We couldn’t have been happier. Not just because they chose the package we were most excited about, but because it showed Grace as a company was ready to truly embody the new tagline we’d created for them: Always more.

“Always more” is the culmination of months of intensive effort to distil the essence of Grace — from their humble beginnings to the future of their expanding service offering. It describes the richness of their history, the scope of their business, the reach of their services, the scale of their ambition, and their promise to customers. But most importantly, with a simple aspiration that the whole company can get behind, it describes a brand united as one.

For the first time, Grace can look to the future with the confidence of a strong, integrated brand.

And us? We’ve got some more awesome Grace work in the pipes. So stay tuned for the roll-out!


With Flying Colours