The New Staples Logo: A Rebrand That Should Have Been Tabled
New Staples Logo
Established in 1986, Staples is an office supply retailer with more nearly 1,500 stores located in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and 12 Canadian provinces and territories. In addition to the big box stores (or superstores as Staples refers to them) that we’re all familiar with, Staples has a promotional products division and a business-to-business division, Staples Advantage, that works directly with companies as a one-stop option to fulfill their office needs. This has become a greater focus since 2017 when private equity firm Sycamore Partners bought the company. This year at its 2019 Sales Conference in early April, Staples introduced a new logo and visual identity.
More on the new identity later. Let’s talk for a minute about the Staples’ business advantage, and whether, if their B2B division is becoming a greater focus, the new logo is an asset. Per the Staples investor website, one of their key strategies for their North American superstores is to “provide superior value to our customers through a combination of everyday low prices, a broad selection of products, and convenient store locations…” And in a press release announcing an e-commerce site for Staples Advantage, Staples claimed that customers will have “access to the industry’s most comprehensive source of office solutions.” Furthermore, Laura Brooks, vice president of business-to-business e-commerce for Staples said:
“Businesses are asking for a partner that makes it easy for them to purchase the everyday supplies and strategic services they need to run their business cost effectively. We’re driven by the voice of our customers and use it to create innovative solutions that deliver satisfaction.”
Broad selection of products; comprehensive source of office solutions; everyday supplies and services - sounds like you can find all the basic necessities for your business. Hmmm. What’s another word for basic necessities…? Oh yeah! …And this is where an opportunity was missed.
The old logo, with its bent staple/paper clip “L”, had some appeal. It was clunky, but in the era of big box office supply stores, it was just unique enough to add some perceived value to the brand in a ubiquitous market. But that uniqueness was derived to highlight exactly what the retail locations offered - office supplies: printers, paper, pens, ink, binders, and yes even staples.
Staples logo before and after
The new logo was unveiled at the 2019 Sales Conference. Although the intro was WAAAY over the top, and it had a definite Dunder Mifflin aura, it was a great way to get buy-in from employees. The new logo takes the old staple, opens it up (literally, see the video), and turns it into what looks at first like, well, a staple. The launch branding gives a different impression and presents it as a table. But without the chair graphic, the icon still has a definite “staple” vibe (or maybe soccer goal vibe). Either way, staple or table, Staples is still embracing icons of their past core products, not what they claim to be now. They’ve failed to capitalize on the dual meaning of their name to emphasize “we provide your basic business needs”. Maybe that’s not as easy to capture graphically as a table, but it’s truer to the brand.
New Staples Branding Launch & Applications
Aside from the icon’s ineffectiveness, the logo is a step up. Gone is the all-caps Helvetica wordmark that we’ve come to accept only because of its familiarity. The deeper red of the primary mark is more modern, and one could argue more corporate. Visually, I’m a bit unsettled by the uniformity in the letterform width and the icon width. Combine this with limited spacing between the two elements and it creates tension and eliminates visual hierarchy. The simplicity does offer a broader array of applications and the ability to use each element separately, which if done wisely is great. However...
A Logo for Each Country
Did you know there was a Staples Canada that has some autonomy from Staples US? Did you realize that autonomy extends to having a DIFFERENT LOGO? Considering it will take time for retail outlets to fully implement the new branding and replace the old; and considering there are numerous companies that do business regularly in both countries, how can there be two different new logos?
Staples US & Canada Branding
Wait, did I say two different new logos? What I meant was three. As part of the rebranding, Staples launched a line of “select” products and branded it as TRU RED. The product concept and execution aside, the introduction of THIS LOGO at THIS TIME just adds to the brand confusion. Stylistically, it is reflective of the Staples Canada icon. Are these products only offered in Canada? Do you need to be Canadian to purchase them? Does your purchase request need to end in “eh”? And why, even though the foundation of the iconography is the same as that used in both the US and Canada logo versions, is there a font that is different from either? I want answers! Beyond that, and perhaps more problematic, the logomark is quite reminiscent of the (RED) logo made famous by Bono, which also sells swag products. Are they related? Do some of the TRU RED purchases go to philanthropic causes? I foresee problems.
With all that said, I’m still torn. The new logo is a definite upgrade from the old, and I believe it is more versatile. However, the changes feel superficial. Maybe the problem is in the rollout. Maybe the icon should have been presented in a number of ways, other than a table, to better capture other services. The main menu of the website highlights their wholistic approach with tabs for Products, Services & Solutions, and Worklife Ideas & Insights. The new branding doesn’t carry through. In my review of the Uber redesign, I felt the execution was blah, but it was clear that Uber’s focus was on connecting with their vision for the future. This is the opportunity missed - the opportunity to clarify their brand differentiation. The messaging that accompanies the new brand says that “Worklife is evolving, and so are we.” However, this rebranding feels as though Staples went from selling office supplies to selling office products. Nowhere do I get the feeling they have evolved to selling comprehensive, innovative office solutions - a concept that definitely should have been on the table.
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