What’s in a brand? The amazing success of The Co-operative Group

November 19th, 2011

Published on Co-operative News, by Donna Balkan, November 16, 2011.

… The first presentation was by Len Wardle, chair of The Co-operative Group in the U.K. The Co-operative Group represents about 90 per cent of the co-op business in the United Kingdom, and is one of the U.K’s 30 largest companies.  While grocery stores have long been a mainstay of The Co-operative, its business also includes banking, travel, legal services and funerals. And The Co-operative is the U.K.’s largest single farmer, producing food that is sold in its stores. 

But the story of The Co-operative is special for another reason. After a 40-year decline, it has turned itself around, largely as a result of a branding strategy that has given The Co-operative a modern, cohesive look and feel.  As Len Wardle explained this morning, there used to be no single brand – co-op stores used a variety of looks and logos, which he described as “confusing and chaotic”.  So The Co-operative decided to invest in a single look and a single brand: and the strategy worked.  Membership and revenues have soared, and The Co-operative is looking forward to a very bright future.

The Co-operative Group’s new headquarters in Manchester, which is scheduled to open in 2012, will be “the most environmentally sustainable building in Europe”; says Len Wardle

For Wardle, having co-operative values and being a highly successful business are not mutually exclusive. “We have learned a great deal about being not only ethically driven, but commercially focused.” (full text).


International Co-operative Alliance ICA: ICA is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide. Founded in 1895, ICA has 267 member organisations from 97 countries active in all sectors of the economy. Together these co-operatives represent nearly one billion individuals worldwide …

ICA General Assembly, Cancun, 14-18 Nov. 2011;

The Cooperative Difference, 5.04 min;

Three co-operatives making a big difference to their communities, 7.15 min;

3 Objectives and How the Co-ops Work, 5.39 min;

Other searches on YouTube for cooperatives;

and search with key cooperatives and local development theory and applications for the 21st century;

Cooperative on en.wikipedia, with its External Links.

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