Debenhams unveils new brand identity to try to turn around High Street woes


Debenhams is unveiling a new brand identity and campaign designed to build brand affinity and demonstrate a renewed sense of confidence for the future as it looks to turn around its fortunes amid wider problems on the high street.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the department store has redesigned its logo, putting what it describes as a “modern and approachable twist” on the Debenhams branding. 

“I’m definitely not a change the logo, change the company person,” explains Richard Cristofoli, Debenhams managing director of beauty and marketing.

“I’m not a believer that just by changing the logo you’ve changed your entire experience, but we’re on a very big programme of change and we felt that the way we identified and spoke to customers needed to change as well.”

Conscious that there is never a perfect time to launch a new identity, Debenhams wanted to communicate to consumers the brand “it is on its way to becoming”.

The new branding goes live on the website and across store windows and in-store displays today, with permanent elements like fascias rolling out as part of the wider modernisation project. Five Debenhams stores are set for modernisation by the end of this year, while the retailer is opening a new store in Watford at the end of September.

In a bid to devise what it describes as a “new form of brand expression”, Debenhams approached the design process in a different way to normal. Instead of sending out a conventional brief to an advertising agency and a separate brief to an identity agency, Debenhams decided to bring the two briefs together and search for a ‘brand expression partner’ – a pitch Mother won.

The wider campaign playfully invites consumers to regain the joy of shopping and ‘Do a bit of Debenhams’. The tone of the whole campaign is based on research conducted by the retailer that found in general the act of shopping was becoming less joyful for consumers.

“Those that love shopping were being made to feel a bit guilty about it, like life should only be about life experiences not shopping experiences and that at worst shopping was becoming trivialised or seen as a solitary occupation,” Cristofoli explains.

“One of the great phrases we heard from customers was that ‘shopping used to be this great moment in my life and now it’s become a bit of a relationship with my post room’.”

As a result, Debenhams is positioning the new campaign as a rallying call, opting for a deliberately cheeky and provocative tone of voice aimed at people who unashamedly love shopping.

The campaign has a social-first media plan, focusing on still and gif formats across digital. Running alongside, three million Debenhams brochures will be inserted into titles such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, You magazine, Metro and Marie Claire.

The idea is to use social and digital for the big broadcast messages and print to communicate the breadth of Debenhams’ offer. Internal econometrics show that brochures and publications are the department store chain’s highest returning media and also the best at driving new customers in store. The content will have a high-end feel in terms of the tone and visuals, more like a magazine than a catalogue, says Cristofoli.

“The whole publishing programme and campaign is designed to demonstrate to customers ‘wow here’s a retailer that has got a whole level of passion for newness and change that we weren’t aware of’,” he explains.

“We believe this new campaign and the new identity is the right thing to do to express the level of change that we’re making to our business.”