Steve Haywood: C&RT’s new brand of nonsense

The CRT stand at Crick (photo: Martin Ludgate)

The CRT stand at Crick (photo: Martin Ludgate) - Credit: Martin Ludgate

Steve laments the Canal and River Trust’s new logo

Okay, I know that the new Canal and River Trust logo only cost a niggardly £60,000 which is peanuts by today’s corporate standards. I know too that even this paltry sum came from the Trust’s existing marketing budget, which is anyhow only one per cent of C&RT’s budget. Even so, there’s something about the launch of the logo that’s disturbed me.

Part of it, of course, is that it’s such an appallingly bad logo it’s difficult to see how anyone with any design sense could have approved it. This blue hole with a few lines underneath would make a tolerable emblem for a water company – but one that puts water in taps, not one that puts people on water. It could be a great badge for a new underground line too – the River Line, perhaps? – since it owes so much to the classic London underground logo that it’s almost a rip-off. But for a charity, the primary function of which is the protection of the heritage of the waterways, it’s dreadful. It communicates nothing of the pastoral seclusion which is the biggest attraction of the canals, and the reference it makes to the canal bridge of the old logos reduces this iconic image – familiar to millions – to a meaningless circle.

Worse, the new logo doesn’t even carry anything of C&RT’s new message which it’s pushing as part of its rebranding – the message that canals can somehow be linked to the health of the nation. So where’s the health message in this image? Where’s any reference to the ‘Natural Health Service’ about which C&RT chairman Allan Leighton has recently been trumpeting incomprehensibly? Frankly, I wouldn’t walk into a chemist with a logo as bad as this.

It’s no use Allan dismissing the outcry that has greeted the launch of the logo by saying that he’s never known a new one be introduced without people saying it’s terrible, and arguing that it had to change because ‘I could give you a list of organisations that have never changed and died.’ Well Allan, I could give you a list of organisations that have changed their logo and then had to change them back again when the appalling import of what had been done eventually dawned on their oblivious managements. Indeed there are so many duff logos which have had to be scrapped, there are websites about them.

A recent one was Leeds United Football Club which in January introduced a new logo of a shield featuring the arm of a bloke who looked as if he was muscling to get a pint at a bar. This month the logo was scrapped after a furious response by supporters and an online petition that garnered some 50,000 signatures objecting to it. I mention it only because Mr Leighton was once deputy chairman of the club which he still supports. You’d think he’d have learned, wouldn’t you?

But then you’d think after a stellar career in management that has taken him to the very top of the tree that Allan might have learned a bit about public relations too – and this is the aspect of this logo launch that’s troubled me most. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s bad enough hearing the waterways which so many of us have loved and cherished for so long referred to as ‘a brand’ and ‘a product’; more offensive is to hear it likened to a chocolate bar as he did in a recent interview which was terrible PR for any C&RT chairman.

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This is not big business we do on the cut. We’re in it for the fun and we love the canals more than you ever loved your chocolate bars. Lighten up a bit. Enjoy them with us.

More importantly try and understand how we feel. We’ve only just got used to being told we only represent just a fraction of ‘the customers’ who use the cut when in truth we know we are your ONLY true customers because, give or take a fisherman or two, we are the only ones who give you our hard earned cash in return for a service.

And remember, when the chips are down, it’s us, not the newcomers you’re seeking to attract, who’ll be the ones fighting for the future of the cut as we have been for the past 70 years.

Follow me on Twitter @Cutdreamer


Steve Haywood is an award-winning current affairs TV producer, journalist and author who has been a boat owner for more than 40 years