Bye bye, Bay "B."
Hudson's Bay Co. has unveiled a large-scale rebranding of its company and store logos, retiring the highly recognizable big B logo that has been the face of its flagship stores since 1965.
The store signs will now sport a plainer typeface and the full "Hudson's Bay" name in place of The Bay, the company announced on Wednesday. The company's traditional coat of arms has also been redrawn and will be added to the new Hudson's Bay word-mark, along with its 1670 founding date, for some packaging and other "signature use."
The retailer is trying to balance a more streamlined, modern look to its brand as well as giving a nod to its heritage – with the old name and coat of arms – at a time when it faces upheaval in the Canadian competitive landscape.
Hudson's Bay Co. revealed its plans to retire the shorter Bay name at the time of its initial public offering last year, and has now begun rolling out the new branding across its nationwide network of stores. As rivalries are heating up with coming U.S.-based entrants, including Target Corp. and Nordstrom Inc., it would seem a risky time to ditch a brand image that is so entrenched in the minds of consumers.
However, some industry experts applauded the move this week.
"I'm always a proponent of, if it's working, then why screw with it, unless there is a marketing reason for it. But in this case, what they're acknowledging is that the world around them is changing dramatically," said Rick Padulo, a retail marketing veteran and founder of Padulo Integrated Inc. "Because of that, it gives them licence to change. Even if it is back to the future."
Mr. Padulo worked on various accounts for HBC at different agencies for more than two decades. The extent to which the brand should wrap itself in its heritage, and in the Canadian identity, has been a constant discussion for marketers, he said.
While the company is technically owned by Americans now, Mr. Padulo believes the nod to its heritage could still resonate with consumers. He also believes it makes more sense than the attempt a number of years ago to create an umbrella "HBC" brand to unite all of its stores.
The company abandoned the abbreviated HBC brand in 2009; though since the IPO, it has a new blue flag logo with HBC on it that will be used for corporate communications only. That logo will not be seen much by consumers.
"When we were doing the commercials, we had to graft on the HBC logo on the end of it," Mr. Padulo said. "It was kind of meaningless. … Taking advantage of the history, I think is a good thing."
Canadians will most likely continue to refer to the stores as The Bay, said Shelley Brown, national planning director at agency BBDO Toronto. From a strategic standpoint, she believes the short-form name never should have been made official; having a nickname breeds familiarity with shoppers.
"It's classic, and classy," Ms. Brown said of the new branding. "Connecting to the core of the brand seems like a smart move, particularly right now. There are challenging days ahead for this brand."
Before 1965: The old-time typeface and full Hudson's Bay Company name signified the identity of Canada's oldest company.
1965-2013: The Bay's stylized B was an attempt at a more modern, "folk-friendly" look, and made official the shorter nickname Canadians already had for the stores. It was designed by Lippincott & Margulies, and based on a calligraphed B that appeared in the headline of the original HBC charter from 1670. It read: "Charles the Second By the Grace of God."
2013: The name returns to full-form Hudson's Bay, with an all-caps, simpler typeface, accompanied by the coat of arms. The design was developed by New York-based agency Lipman. The coat of arms was redrawn by Canadian artist Mark Summers, but elements remain the same, including two moose holding up the shield with the cross of St. George and four beavers topped with a fox sitting on a cap. It also includes the original Latin motto that was dropped in the crest redesign of 2002, "pro pelle cutem" – "skin for skin," or "[animal] skins obtained at the cost of [human] skin"