O’KEY hypermarket rebranding
O’KEY is one of the biggest hypermarket chains in Russia, with over 150 shops spanning two continents. It had a strong customer base and a clear identity – at least on the outside. But after 15 years, it was becoming threadbare, being surpassed by more nimble and innovative competitors. O’KEY’s value proposition had also become vague, with customer’s perception ranging from a premium grocery destination to low cost outlet.
Brand Manual spent a week in two major Russian cities to map the state of affairs. We spent time shopping at O’KEY hypermarkets, talking to staff, inspecting the back offices and store-rooms as well as processes and in-store navigation. This was followed by dozens of interviews with customers, both O’KEY regulars as well as people who had never set foot in them. To complete our impression of O’KEY we also acquainted ourselves with the competition.
What we found was a concept that had evolved into a mish-mash of different visual identities, adopting random bits and pieces of different ideas and upgrades. Communication-wise it was also sending conflicting signals. The brand needed not just a refresh – it needed direction.
The first step was a massive cleanup
We narrowed down the visual set to a distinctive O’KEY code, juxtaposing it against the competition. First organised as a simple “dollhouse” model, it resulted in an initial set of identity elements: logo (the only thing that was kept virtually unchanged), colour palette, new font set and a few supporting graphic elements. Everything else was dismissed.
We used the new visual identity as building blocks to create the in-store navigation system. We approached it as a customer would: from the parking lot to the entrance of the building to finding the gates of the shop. From there on we added layers of way-showing to the shop floor, from major department beacons to aisle markings and narrow product groups. Keeping in mind the viewing corridors, we designed an in-store navigation architecture system, keeping the levels of signage to a minimum and placing information only in locations, where it was really needed.
To ensure that our design also worked in real life, we proceeded to prototype full-size signage on-site to see if what looked good on the computer screen could survive contact with reality. It was a real pleasure to work with the client’s team, hanging signs around a cavernous space, to really get an appreciation for proportions. This led to several iterations until we had the necessary sense of place, to create the (almost) final working models, sizes and materials.
To test the concept, O’KEY launched a couple of test shops. One of them was as far as Tyumen in Siberia. After a few further adjustments following full-scale trials, we designed the final toolset for upgrading all O’KEY hypermarkets across Russia. It also serves as the guide for designing new stores and covers all touch-points that a shopper has with the brand.
The resulting 150 page brand identity guide starts with communication principles and tone-of-voice, visual identity basics and ends in the nitty-gritty of price tag structures and workwear design.