3663's New identity
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Working as a freelancer in 1999, Dragon contracted me to design the new identity for the re-branding of Booker Foodservice. Booker was a dusty and tired business brand in a stagnant and extremely traditional sector. A radical re-thinking of the positioning and the type of brand was necessary. Dragon (now Dragon Rouge) found an extaordinary solution in the alphanumeric keystroke combination that spells out food on a mobile keypad.

F - 3 - O - 6 - O - 6 - D - 3

Conceptually this is very clever as the idea is beyond the gimmick of remembering a phone number, which was never intended, or ever used. The idea falls in line with the sort of services expected of business-to-business brands. It's a behind-the-scenes idea for a behind-the-scenes brand. The business is about the distribution of high quality ingredients to the food industry. The business is about foodservice and not the business of making food. Also, conceptually, the mobile phone represents communication and mobility of the future (a 'prediction' now proving true) and the mobile phone idea offered an alignment for a new type of foodservice brand going somewhere exciting.

After Dragon's rebrand of Booker, 3663 went on to become the most dynamic and successful player in the sector. It's been suggested that it's not Tesco eating up Britain, it's a brand you've probably never heard of, 3663.

The brand appears to have rejuvenated the industry and even to have spawned a couple of imitators. With a national fleet of over 600 lorries on the roads throughout Britain and major depots throughout the country the brand gets a lot of exposure with a high rate of recognition and recall even among the lay population. It also has a very good reputation as an employer. In the foodservice sector it would seem that the brand lives up to its original brandline as the 'First for foodservice'.

I'm all for identity changes that demonstrate an improvement in the brand experience on offer, even of identities that I've designed. 'Fresh off the boat' in '99 I knew about corporate identity and had managed to design the identity of a major IT brand in South Africa but I was new to proper heavy-weight strategic brand consulting. Perhaps, naively, I made a few obvious design errors, the swoosh being one. And, admittedly, the rather awkward relationship of the name to the brandline. But, the concept was so strong the design only needed to carry the idea and my solution fitted better than any of the others on offer. The double six was important and the colour change and direction of the swooshes helped people to say the name as Three Double Six Three.

However, despite some misgivings about my original design the new identity is not an improvement, despite my obvious bias. At least the original was sound in pure design terms. The brandmark could be easily reduced to one colour and etched into the blade of a knife, for example. And, the design was clear and unashamedly a swoosh, which, arguably, lies outside the design cliché because of the strength of the idea in the name. The new swoosh is an obfuscation and although it's got a superficially attractive transparency it looks like it's been designed by a designer who didn't take design school all that seriously.

In addition, the new brandline 'Truly, tasty... together' indicates a significant misunderstanding of the relationship of the brand identity to the business. The brand is about distribution to businesses who provide food. Hotels, restaurants and fast food outlets contract 3663 to provide the ingredients and although 3663 does provide ready-made meals to these businesses it is these businesses who carry the need to be seen to provide a taste experience. The new brandline is a consumer facing brandline and it does not make sense in a business-to-business environment.

Also, the cost of implementing the new identity doesn't make sense. Three Double Six Three is a huge brand and the brandmark appears, not only on a huge fleet of trucks that will require new livery but throughout the business on a large scale. An update of the 3663 brand may be due but such a radical change appears ill-conceived. It seems that someone at 3663 is going to learn the tough lesson of not employing top-line brand consultants. And, the sad truth of this is that because the brand is so big it will probably be a long time before someone realises the mistake.

Click on the before brandmark to go to the entry in my portfolio or click on the after brandmark to got to the new 3663 website.