Camilla, the original Charlie's Angel | Breakthrough Funding

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Camilla, the original Charlie's Angel

If your company has been around a while and you’re thinking you should probably update your visual identity, you have a bit of a dilemma. Should you go for a Camilla or a Lady GaGa?

That is to say, should you go for all out change or just a bit of a tweak? The first allows you to completely reinvent yourself and become bang on trend (Lady Gaga). The second allows you to cash in on any goodwill or recognition that is already vested in your brand and name (Camilla). Of course it depends on the recognisability of your logo, your overall business situation and how long you’ve been trading.

Camilla is that lady married to our future king. I think officially she’s called the Duchess of Cornwall. If you google image “Camilla” you will see she continues to champion the wearing of pearl choker necklaces and stubbornly refuses to change her 1970’s flicky hairstyle.

I think it’s appropriate that she has a faint look of an aged Charlie’s Angel. Getting out of helicopters, staying in exotic locations, never really having a proper job, and the mysterious phone calls from a bloke called Charlie. A natural stunt double for Farrah Fawcett-Majors. It fits perfectly with the whole royal thing. A bit like Coronation Street, it’s forever preserved in a comfortable time warp that generally lags thirty years behind the rest of the world.

Camilla has made a conscious decision. She knows she faces the classic marketing problem of an old brand with a long history. Should I stay on the shelf unchanged, hoping for someone to pick me up? Or go for a complete makeover like Lady Gaga? It’s the dilemma faced by Marmite, Kit-Kat, Heinz Baked Beans and others, every couple of years or so.

I admire Camilla as she seems to make only small concessions regarding her visual appearance in the media, refusing to accommodate a bit of botox or the addition of sky high Jimmy Choos. She also has a voice like a truck driver, which I kind of like. She won’t play the game and that does give her some type of brand dignity, but while her identity is strong and recognisable, it’s definitely not cutting edge.

The problem with doing a Lady Gaga though, is that you can lose your brand essence. Instead of small changes to refine her core image, she goes for revolution not evolution, every time. And she does this with startling regularity. If you google image Lady Gaga, you’d never believe all those photographs are the same person. I don’t think I’d recognise her even if she was just in front of me at the checkout in Waitrose.

With the heady oxygen of major celebrity, her outrageous visual changes make headlines, but just like Katie Price, eventually we get bored of it all and switch off. The changes (or husbands in Price’s case) get more and more ridiculous as their status declines. It’s a bit like British Airways drastically changing their image a few years ago, or that disastrous name change to Consignia by the Post Office. Neither worked, not because the re-design was wrong, but because it’s transparent and obvious to the public that they’re in decline. Authenticity has been lost and the whiff of desperation fills the air.

Conversely, I think Camilla has probably got it right. She’s softened the Farrah look, but hasn’t lost the essential 1970’s element of the styling. She’s kept the brand essence. Tinkering with the styling around the edges to make visual concessions, but never losing the integrity of the previous identity. Authentic Camilla – a marketing hero?

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