The JSE has a new look, but the changes are so much more than the logo – they signify a shift in strategy and the beginning of a new evolution


Outside the small clique that is the advertising world, it’s hard to imagine anyone really feeling passionate about a logo. But as soon as a famous logo changes, you will find all kinds of people becoming nostalgic for a familiar squiggle. As Churchill once said: ‘There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.’ But even when it is, brands are still likely to encounter resistance from consumers who simply do not like the idea of change.

‘There is no doubt that with the rate of change that goes on in the world, the lifespan of a logo has diminished quite a lot,’ says John Cooney, executive chairman of the Red & Yellow School of advertising in Cape Town. With that, he says, there is often a backlash against companies that rebrand and change their logos too quickly.

‘The people who are most affected by the change are the ones who have the strongest emotional bond with the brand. I think it’s wonderful if they complain because it means that they care,’ he says.

In April, the JSE launched its new brand identity, the work of agency Interbrand Sampson de Villiers. Although there is far more to the change than just the logo, the new look immediately sparked debate.

A snap poll held on Bruce Whitfield’s The Money Show on 702 suggested that the JSE had erred, with 89% of respondents saying they preferred the old logo. ‘That’s to be expected because the people who love the old logo are those who complain. The people who love the new one don’t say anything about it,’ says Cooney.

‘If you look at existing JSE users, they’ve lost something they love, so you could say it is a failure. But if you look at where it’s going in the future, I think it’s a step in the right direction.’

Interestingly, when Cooney posed the same question to students at the Red & Yellow School, the polls were reversed, with 61% of people in favour of the new logo. This is significant because while the JSE wants to retain its existing customers, it is also looking to the next generation of investors who think of money as digital transactions, rather than as large piles of cash locked in a vault.

‘I think what has happened in the financial world is that the market has moved on and the whole industry has changed,’ says Cooney. ‘In the past, it was all about vaults and security and strongrooms and strength, whereas today money transactions happen in a sort of automatic space.’

‘When we did our brand audit, we did not set out to change our visual identity – we set out to understand how people perceive us’


While the old JSE logo, with its diagonal iron bars, suggested an impenetrable fortress, the new one – in Cooney’s opinion – reflects a world in which money is digital and moves at the click of a button.

‘The JSE has a very long and proud history. However, time has evolved, business has evolved, the landscape in which we operate has evolved,’ says Zeona Jacobs, Director: Issuer and Investor Relations of the JSE. ‘When we did our brand audit, we did not set out to change our visual identity – we set out to understand how people perceive us.

‘While we got very good feedback in terms of our external audience feeling that we are reliable, professional and an honest organisation – those three terms were used the most for us – we thought those words were a great foundation to move into the next phase of our evolution – becoming a more integrated exchange.’

This strategy has been in place since 2012, the idea being that the JSE will list companies, as well as trade, clear and settle with different markets – all under the stock exchange’s brand.

This means other independent brands that have fallen within the JSE cluster – such as the Bond Exchange of South Africa (Besa), the South African Futures Exchange (Safex) and the derivatives clearing house Safcom – will drop their individual brand identities and be integrated into the stock exchange’s new brand.

The JSE already has distinct advantages over other African stock exchanges such as liquidity and trustworthiness. The WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report, for instance, consistently ranks the JSE as the world’s best regulated stock exchange. This makes the JSE an attractive choice for foreign investors looking to invest in Africa. Currently, between 15% and 25% of the bourse’s investors are in fact foreign.

In addition to this, JSE-listed companies such as MTN, Shoprite and Tiger Brands are making impressive strides in Africa, boosting the JSE’s image as a gateway for foreign investors wishing to take advantage of African growth, and likewise for African investors looking to invest globally.

‘We [do not assume] that simply because of our 127-year heritage we will be the natural choice for companies or product issuers,’ says Jacobs.

‘Currently we have strong relationships with most African exchanges through ASEA [African Securities Exchanges Association] and CoSSE [Committee of SADC Stock Exchanges]. The JSE is working towards attracting dual listings from other jurisdictions, as well as cross-listings of products on each other’s exchanges.’

This is not a rebranding strategy that is going to lead the change at the JSE, but rather a reflection of the change that is already occurring

Apart from becoming more integrated and more technological, another quality the JSE hopes that consumers will take away from their rebranding exercise is that the bourse is becoming more accessible, demystifying the stock exchange to the average consumer who perhaps doesn’t have extensive financial expertise.

‘The goal was to make the JSE more approachable on all levels, especially in the retail sector where we have very low percentages of trade on the JSE,’ says Risma Viljoen, JSE Marketing Manager. Again, this is a reflection of a change already underway at the exchange.

‘Over the years the JSE has introduced a number of products, like exchange traded funds. With people being able to invest as little as R300 a month, those products have made it easier for them to engage,’ says Jacobs. ‘What is important to us is that – as people begin to understand the exchange better and we become more accessible – people move into different product categories and engage with more complex products.

‘Critically, we want people to see that they can personally manage their own portfolios – they are not managed by someone else.’

What is notable about the JSE’s transformation is that it is happening at a time when other financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies have opted for conservative tweaks to their images.

‘Always refresh from within’ is something of a mantra in advertising circles – the idea that slow evolution of a brand identity is better than a sudden revolution. A case in point is Sanlam which recently launched its new brand identity with only very subtle tweaks to their logo.

As Jacobs points out, this is not a rebranding strategy that is going to lead the change at the JSE but rather a reflection of the change that is already occurring. ‘The logo is not the reason they buy your brand – that’s the strategy,’ says Cooney. ‘The logo is really the recognition of the brand that people buy.’

By Sue Coombs
Image: Andreas Eiselen/HSMimages