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Facing Another Smile

Reviewed Mar. 3, 2010 by Brand New

Industry / Retailers Tags /

Argos Logo, Before and After

Argos is the largest general merchandise and home retailer in the UK with a network of 750 stores throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Known mostly for a catalogue-based selling system, Argos is a multi-channel retailer that lays claim to a 30-year heritage and defined by a unique retail experience. Argos is a high volume, fast-paced and highly effective commercial goods delivery mechanism, servicing more than 130 million customers per year and boasting an annual turnover over £4 billion (US$6 billion). A lightweight brand, Argos is most certainly not.

The front of a typical Argos store is filled with low cost, slightly tacky but modern and organically designed product selection stations, displaying doorstop-sized catalogues and often jam-packed with shoppers brandishing pens on strings to jot down product numbers and quantities on predetermined forms. Goods are then collected at the rear of the store from a small army of uniformed staff summoning up products from large hidden conveyor supplied storage areas or delivered by trucks from larger warehouses later at home.

In addition to furiously busy retail outlets, the Argos website gets heavy traffic with daily traffic averages of 1.3 million hits. The Argos brand trades deeply on economies of scale, accessibility and ubiquity, and customers are encouraged not just to shop for it but to “Argos it.” Given the phenomenal success of such an established brand embraced by the masses it made sense to give the identity a makeover.




This is a total brand refresh steered and created by The Brand Union, who appear to have refined the positioning to a more personal “family retailer,” despite it’s mass consumer status. “Mass-personal” is perhaps an appropriate description of the approach, inspired by the mass customizations available from online brands such as Amazon. A brand that carries perhaps the most inspired smile and against which all brand smiles should be compared. For yet again we are faced with a smiling brand in Argos.

Far from just a logo update this is a complete overhaul of the entire Argos brand identity, led by the strategic idea of “a brand for everyone.” In comparison to the typographically contorted previous brandmark, on the surface the new Argos brandmark is clean, legible and smart, and the overall presentation of the brand appears orderly and well thought-out.

Or, perhaps not entirely so well thought out… the “Helping you live for less” brandline is potentially a hidden demon waiting to be revealed. From it we understand an appropriate “spend less money and get more value” interpretation but a more troubling reading would be “helping you to live to expect less”. This may explain why on the website the brandline is tidied away in a footer.



Given the extensive market penetration and the strength of the Argos brand making it more generic is perhaps a creative opportunity missed. At least in all its typographic naivety the previous brandmark had a distinctive identity. The new identity is unmistakably modern and a step forward from a brand management perspective but the newfound clarity comes at the expense of uniqueness. The evolution of the brandmark into a discrete smile makes some sense. At least it’s a clear idea but it is an idea that is conceptually flat and creatively barren. Argos has been de-cluttered, sanitised and corporatised. The business machine behind the brand has been more consciously and overtly articulated; no longer a faceless mechanism but now sporting a mechanical face.

Argos has been thoroughly rationalised. Everything about the new brand identity makes a little too much sense. Super refinement criticisms of the drawing of the mark are probably wasted. Sure, the type is a little squidgy and the weight a touch too heavy but arguably this helps to make an otherwise clinical and mechanical brand appear more personable and friendly. The arch on the left edge of the “A” is a nice touch but let’s face it we’re looking at yet another clichéd sort-of-face in a logo; a broad and bland smile, vacant eyes somewhere in the counter-forms and a nose conveniently formed by the “gs” descender. Creating a brand personality doesn’t literally mean create a face in the logo.

Otherwise, there is not much to fault in this brand refresh. There aren’t any obvious problems but it’s hard not to shake the feeling that a unique insight was waiting to be discovered and celebrated, that a little brand magic was to be had somewhere and that, perhaps, a facile decision-maker chose the safest option.

Perhaps a distinctive name is enough of a differentiator for a brand of this stature and caliber. Most of Argos’ customers are probably too busy gorging on goods to realise that anything’s changed. They might notice that something is different but they probably couldn’t say what exactly. Perhaps on this occasion a “nice” design, generic brand identity idea and an inane brand personality are all that’s required.

Next in line please…

Thanks to KK Lapper for first tip.

Andrew Sabatier is a UK-based Brand Identity Designer specialising in brand identity origination and design with a brandmark-led approach to articulating brand strategy. Over ten years experience conceptualising brands for brand consultancies and direct clients. He is an international correspondent for Brand New.



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