Blazing a new trail – OS undergoes their most dramatic brand transformation in 229 year history

Ordnance Survey (OS): the map people. Raincoats and Kendal mint cake, Scouts and Ramblers. Well, that’s what everyone knows the OS for, but paper maps only account for 5% of their turnover. Few people understand the other 95%!

Yes, the OS can still help plan a countryside walk, but now the company is on a mission to use their location data and insights for positive impact and real purpose, and show the world how to get to a better place… Like modernising and democratising the African land administration system, powering the new generation of ‘smart’ cities and even keeping driverless cars on the road – all of which they are already doing, it’s just nobody knows about it.

When lockdown struck, the OS team was only three months into their largest ever repositioning programme to shift the iconic brand from ‘known’ to ‘understood’. While some companies have spent 2020 scaling back or trying to reformulate, Britain’s most well-known mapmakers were determined to continue the process and embraced lockdown as their chance to metamorphosise and set the record straight on what they actually do.

OS also recognised how they could help the nation during lockdown, setting up a special unit to provide their invaluable Emergency Mapping data, for free, to support frontline workers, local and national authorities and testing teams – with essential insights crucial for their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. OS kept busy helping hundreds of organisations, including the UK government, locate retail car parks big enough for testing facilities, identify parts of the country with high densities of vulnerable, shielding people and pointing the public to their closest green space for lockdown exercise.

The 1200-strong company, under the direction of new CEO Steve Blair and Director of Marketing Rebecca Paterson – working closely with their HR department and Southampton-based brand specialists Idealogy – went into serious brand lockdown to revolutionise their brand purpose and perception.

Board meetings, discussions and decisions were all virtual. Even consumer testing, brand perception workshops and a virtual event for the entire OS team was conducted online, not to mention the four websites, 50+ interviews, two films, etc. The challenging circumstances forced the historic 229 year old British brand to transform their culture and adopt a new approach that helped them find greater relevance in a global, truly digital world.

Six months and a new brand toolkit later, OS has now emerged ready to shout from the mountaintops about their new vision to become recognised as world leaders in geospatial services, creating location insight for positive impact.

Now it’s about showing the value they add to utilities, public transport, emergency services, private sector, public sector and infrastructure players who rely on OS location data and insights to operate better.

This autumn sees the branding project reach an exciting milestone with the launch of a new brand purpose as the final part of the strategic jigsaw to support OS’s ambitious vision, strategy and values. The new direction marks the first time the OS has radically redefined its brand vision, with the ultimate aim to shift its perception from a British trusted treasure to a global, dynamic technology company.