Gumtree has focused on language in its latest rebrand, and so should you

Rob Self-Pierson, founder at writing agency The Table, explains why he thinks language and “verbal identity” are the foundations of a great rebrand.


Have you noticed something different about Gumtree?

It’s gone and got itself a new logo, colour palette and typeface; a new print and TV advertising style; a new website and new app. It’s even set up @helpmegumtree, a Twitter page dedicated to helping its customers.

As its web banners promise, this brand refresh certainly seems to be the start of something special for the UK’s “#1 classifieds site”.

But there’s something else – something just as important to a brand when it decides to make big changes. It’s something you might not have noticed. Gumtree has a fresh approach to how it communicates: a new brand language, tone of voice, and verbal identity. A new way with words.

The sibling in the shadows

Recently, as more and more copywriters have fledged and left their agency nests, writing for business has gained attention. But when it comes to a rebrand, where a new approach to language often underpins everything else, words rarely get a mention.

I started my battle for writing in business back in 2009 when I went freelance. I joined the writers’ organisation 26 to meet likeminded writers, ran writing projects with the V&A in London and Eden in Cornwall, gave talks about the beauty and power of language, and generally put my oar in everywhere I could.

This week I’ve launched a new writing agency, The Table, to continue this charge. Gumtree is our first client.

What difference does it make?

Within a few days of Gumtree implementing its new tone of voice, the company’s head of marketing Hannah Wilson emailed to say:

“Thank you. Signing off a suite of emails yesterday was pleasurable with the new copy and tone of voice in there.”

So, for starters, better writing in a better-suited tone makes life in the office a bit more pleasurable. But what else can writing help a company to achieve in a rebrand?

A unique approach to language helps a brand stand out from its competition – simple. It can also make a visual identity look better, and make a new strategy easier to define and put into practice. Internally, language can transform a company’s culture. And when combined with great design and strategy, it can help a brand shine on the outside. 

In it for the long haul

So, words have the power to change people’s minds – but it takes time.

It takes research, focus groups, brainstorms, client meetings and head-to-heads with other agency partners, first drafts, future drafts, testing, etc. Developing Gumtree’s new tone of voice took two months and a lot of conversations. That was the only way to come up with something that could change perceptions and endure.

Next up comes training. It’ll be many months – possibly years – of running language workshops across the company to encourage everybody to embrace the new voice and use it everywhere, every time.

The perfect formula

Bring together the right visual minds, and a rebrand can catch a lot of eyes.

Support that new look and feel with a strong, clear and realistic strategy and that rebrand can inspire everybody in the company to achieve more.

Add the right language, train people to really, deeply think about every word they write, and then communicate this new way of thinking and writing and that rebrand has the potential to change minds and transform a culture.

Discover More:

• Gumtree in first major rebrand since launch

• Design Week Studio Sessions #1 – Koto on setting up a studio

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