As the ski season in Europe draws to a close, I take a moment to reflect on an organisation with which I have become familiar thanks to my children’s skiing competitions; L’Ecole du Ski Français, (The French Ski school)
The ESF, as it is known, is a federation of French ski schools, with ski monitors in every ski resort in France. Some 17,000 ski monitors are registered and the organization is rightly proud of its very stringent tests to ensure the monitors offer their clients the very best ski instruction under secure conditions.
The ESF is extremely well visually branded, or at least was. Take a look at the main website and you will see a strong use of red, with some white and blue, the colours of the “Tricolore”, the French flag. When skiing in France, the red uniform of the ski monitors is omnipresent and can be seen from afar, both on the slopes and in town.
This year however has seen a stronger use of the blue and white in the new Helly Hanson monitors' ski uniform, which sadly dilutes the impact on the slopes.
However this year's colour dilution goes much further: national ski competitions are a showcase for the ESF, pitting the best ski students from every ski school against each other. In the past, hundreds of red uniformed monitors, and thousands of kids all in their red “Club ESF” jackets appear as a sea of red against the white snow. This has enormous emotional power, the feeling of belonging to a tribe and sensing one is part of something very big.
But no more; this year the kids at the same competitions were issued with all-black jackets, with a white ESF logo on the back. A vitrine of branding uniformity lost with one small decision.
The ESF is such a strong brand in French ski resorts. Red conveys power, confidence and is of course highly visible. The informal Facebook page of the ESF monitors is even called “Les Pulls Rouges” not “red white and blue sweaters and black when we feel like it”. ESF owns “red” on the slopes of France; by diluting that colour they not only make their brand less visually powerful but also lay themselves open for rival ski schools to start using red to attract consumers.
As I said here, branding is so much more than a logo, and so many decisions in business impact on the brand, so please, consider all the consequences before making seemingly unrelated decisions!
Understand your brand, love your brand; it is probably your company's best asset.
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