Consultancy: Newell & Sorrell
Project: Waterstone’s corporate identity
As a brand develops, there is a chance that it might outgrow its
original ‘set of clothes’: its corporate identity. The Waterstone’s
brand has evolved around two main principles: authority and pleasure,
with authority referring to the range and abundance of stock and the
knowledge of staff, and pleasure reflecting the fact it’s a pleasant
place to shop in.
The perfect branch will possess all these elements, yet in the past
Waterstone’s did not possess the structure and discipline to deliver
them across all its stores. It looked to the design brief to help it
reach that stage.
Newell & Sorrell was set four main tasks: to communicate the brand’s
personality more effectively; to determine which current design elements
support the brand and which detract; to provide a detailed critique of
each element (and suggest alternatives where appropriate); and to
develop a design manual.
The programme did not stop at the traditional identity applications of
stationery and forms, but also included a number of new products and a
redesign of the Notting Hill Gate branch, the latter developed with
Peter Leonard & Company, which has since rolled out to a number of other
The new design has also been integrated with all other marketing
disciplines, particularly in PR, with the launch of such initiatives as
the Waterstone’s Guide to Children’s Books, promoted by the chain’s PR
As to its effect on the company, Waterstone’s is now a star performer
within the WH Smith Group. The latest annual report quotes it as
‘achieving trend sales growth of 4.2% in a flat market, while operating
profits rose by 24.3% to pounds 8.7m’.
It goes on to say that its success ‘over the past two years has exploded
the myth that modern retail disciplines are incompatible with an
excellent, widely-stocked bookshop.
‘By clearly targeting the heavy bookbuyer, using technology to improve
service and devolving as much authority as possible to the individual
bookseller, Waterstone’s has created a brand which is both loved and