What's Really Going On With This 'Worklife' Staples Rebrand?
The Staples you know (rather, the Staples you think you know) is pretty much a thing of the past. It was once the go-to for all things office supplies in addition to providing various business services, including branded promotional items. Staples—after a tough stretch that included a failed merger with Office Depot, shakeups in senior management, and now the reported exodus of its private equity owner—still wants to do those things. But it wants to be even more than that.
That's why Staples just rebranded, giving itself an aesthetic makeover and billing itself as "The Working and Learning Company." It has a new logo, with the staple now front and center. It's all very 2019 and very Silicon Valley buzzy.
The time for innovation and growth in the office space has come and coworking is here. Staples Studio is coming to our new concept store located at 375 Univiersty Avenue, downtown Toronto. https://t.co/rcMXgehlXv pic.twitter.com/vcbmFjogtx
— Staples Canada (@StaplesCanada) January 8, 2019
At a concept location in Montreal, Staples is utilizing its new logo as well as incorporating the trendiness of co-working spaces. At its Toronto flagship as well, customers will see new branding throughout the store. Retail Insider detailed "discovery areas," where customers can get a hands-on look at products like staplers, pens, paper, electronics and more.
There's even a "pen bar" and "journal bar," and customers can custom-package a set of 24 Crayola crayons.
Basically, Staples is embracing the millennial vibe by giving people full access to products without the stuffiness of big shelves or glass display cases, and giving them a chance to even relive childhood nostalgia a little bit.
This is a smart and bold pivot.
— 🕳 (@WilliamMacIvor) December 18, 2018
In short, it's a lot of reinvention, very suddenly. In a story published in Forbes, Joan Treistman, president of market research firm The Treistman Group, called it a "complex solution to a simple problem."
“Searching for business supplies and/or furniture is a product-focused effort," Treistman said. "Branding is no longer the major factor (was it ever?) in business product purchase decisions. If Staples’ strategy is to build brands that deliver, it will be expending a lot of energy and dollars and miss connecting with potential customers.”
Staples believes that this refreshing new look could be enough to steer the ship in the right direction, though. Chief marketing officer Marshall Warkentin told Forbes that the whole "Worklife" brand is designed to be more than something that sells office supplies.
"Our solutions for Worklife extend well beyond business essentials," he said. "We have expertise in furniture, technology, pack and ship, and facilities. And we are partners to our customers every step of the way."
It sounds promising from a wholesale perspective, but for Staples to stay afloat, experts say their services in these brick-and-mortar locations, which look like they double as startup incubators, need to reflect the flash and modernity of the new logo. Otherwise, the company won't be able to shake its reputation as a brand struggling to find its identity.
"Staples’ rebranding efforts could pay off, but only if they upgrade their store experience to match this new vision," wrote Meaghan Brophy, retail analyst and editor for Retail Wire. "If they want to be a ‘worklife’ brand, the shopping experience needs to reflect that.”
So, the test now is if customers can shake the memory of the Staples of the past and get on board with the sleek, millennialized Staples of 2019. If they can, then Staples might be able to remain a major player in the office supplies game by adapting to changing demands and customer needs. If not, then it might just keep on losing office-supplies market share to Amazon.