I doubt few people will shed a tear at the passing of First’s so-call Barbie livery. It’s fairly universally unloved, even among many of its managers… and certainly among enthusiasts. IMO, though, at least one variant had its merits, but that’s another story. Leon Daniels, when a First UK Bus director, nevertheless acted as an apologist for Barbie on this very blog.
But First didn’t have enthusiasts in mind when yesterday it unveiled its new identity. There’s one reason and one reason only why an operator goes to the trouble and expense of a redesign and that’s part of a general rebranding exercise that will improve the bottom line. There is no other motivation.
So, the new livery comes as part of a rebranding that, among other things, sees “Better journeys for life”, a new brand promise. This is the culmination to date of the work that Giles Fearnley’s doing to reposition First. Some of the soul searching’s complete and there’s even been some remarkable admissions as regards past behaviour. Now, we are seeing something concrete.
The livery is the most visible part of this. But does it work?
- Does the approach seem far too conservative when you compare it with some of the designs currently around? I guess that the livery doesn’t have to be outrageous but it needs to catch the eye. Does this one?
- Stylistically, the livery seems to be rooted firmly in the 1980s. Some might argue that sharp angles sweeping up towards the rear are a little last century.
- Lilacs in particular seem to have a soothing effect but, especially against a white or whitish background, can also seem too restrained, pallid or neutral. Might First have been braver? Is this a missed opportunity?
Local it may be but is it a mistake to stay with the “First” overall brand? OK, so the display vehicle says “First Leeds” even though it retains the “f”. Some might argue that the First brand is a little tarnished. This is the problem with a national brand when applied universally, as it is now, when parts of it become tainted.
So, First’s livery…weak and watery; or a sign of a clear change of direction?