NB Studio unwraps Mothercare/ELC branding

The first visual integration of the Mothercare and Early Learning Centre merger is set to be unveiled next week, with a design by NB Studio.

The consultancy was appointed in July, without a pitch, initially to work on 15 out-of-town and high street stores. It was briefed to create banners, signage and in-store branding to communicate the new partnership.

The Mothercare and ELC teams, under the auspices of Mothercare’s brand consultant Michael Wolff, decided to retain separate identities, following Mothercare’s £85m acquisition of ELC in June this year.

‘Both retailers have a strong heritage and recognisable identity, so it made sense to keep them and build on them. People know and trust both brands. The challenge was to define what sort of relationship there would be, as well as how and where to get the message across,’ says NB Studio project designer Jodie Wightman.

‘Some of the [new] stores are going to be a joint venture. Others will be predominantly ELC, with a Mothercare concession, while some of them will be Mothercare, with an ELC concession,’ she adds.

The synergy between the two brands comes from the different categories each is aimed at. Mothercare is known for its baby and toddler products up to age five, while ELC focuses on child development. ‘It’s a natural partnership,’ says Wightman.

NB Studio has created two animated characters, a tiger and a monkey, using the Mothercare brand guidelines, to tie the two identities together. The ELC logo is used as a tag from which the characters hang.

‘We would have liked to have moved on the ELC logo slightly as it is quite “hard”, but that’s still in discussion. [However], the way that we’ve used it as a tag, with the animation, makes it much softer and friendlier,’ says Wightman.

The next phase of the project will be to look at a more permanent visual integration.

• Last month, Mothercare acquired Chinese baby products manufacturer Goodbaby, giving it access to the Chinese and Indian markets
• Mothercare has more than 500 stores at home and abroad
• By the time Early Learning Centre makes a full contribution in 2008, group earnings are expected to rise between 50% and 65%
• Mothercare absorbed 215 ELC stores into its portfolio
• ELC figures will be included in Mothercare’s October interim results

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