Jim Prior, chief executive, The Partners
Jim Prior, chief executive, The Partners
A view from Jim Prior

Think BR: Project Canvas rebrands as YouView - but is it a grand design?

In the increasingly hectic connected-TV marketplace - from YouTube and SeeSaw to Freeview and iPlayer - new brand identity YouView must achieve success based on proposition and service, writes Jim Prior, chief executive, The Partners.

I was watching Grand Designs on TV last night. The programme starts by showing us a nondescript bungalow. Then we are treated to architectural drawings and fly-throughs that declare the owner’s intention to turn it into something impressive, yet leave plenty of room for doubt as to whether he will succeed.

Then we watch the thing get built in gradual stages, through which, for every doubt that gets answered, another one appears. Only in the final shots, when the house is fully built and operational, can we be clear that a modernist masterpiece has been achieved.

Judging the new identity for YouView is a bit like judging a Grand Designs' project, twenty minutes into the show. What we have here is just the skeletal framework of a brand – a logo and a holding website with some basic facts and FAQs. And that’s not really enough for us to be able to judge it upon.

Right now it’s a half-built house, the part-construction of an ambitious plan, with equal potential to become a masterpiece, or a rambling ruin, as its journey to completion unfolds.

But, still, what do I think of what’s there so far? Let’s start with the name. YouView. A bit like YouTube. Which, if I was YouTube would be a bit too much like YouTube, and I’m surprised its trademark lawyers haven’t shared that view. But, as a viewer, in a category that offers a lexicon containing nothing more edgy than FreeView, iPlayer, SeeSaw etc. it’s par for the course and just about okay.

The logo is an ambiguous thing. It reminds me of Star Wars and Sky, yet seems to be lacking in any foundational idea. It’s just a script with a rather confusing mix of curves and sharp points that cause it to slip in and out of legibility as the eye travels across the word. The dot on the 'i' is trying to graphically tie itself to the closing 'w' but fails, and ends up as an annoying oddity.

But here’s where the half-built thing comes in – because clearly this is a brand identity that, when the service launches, will mostly be seen in animated form and this may yet prove its salvation.

Perhaps there is an idea waiting to express itself in that format, something that might resolve the criticisms I make here. As half-built houses go, I’ve seen better, but like the first 50 minutes of Grand Designs, it’s still too early to judge the final thing.

Any commentary on the brand identity also needs to acknowledge the limitations of the role that branding will play. The success or failure of YouView will depend on how the service works, the character of the user interface, and the extent to which its essential proposition delivers against the zeitgeist of consumer need.

The brand identity and communications will enhance a strong brand if it delivers in these respects but they won’t be enough to turn it around if it does not.

Jim Prior, chief executive, The Partners