Karachi Electric Supply Company or KESC is the company that carries out the herculean task of powering the sprawling seaside metropolis of Karachi, the third largest city in the world. The long-state-owned-and-now-owned-by-Abraaj-Capital power utility has recently shed its old skin and emerged as K-Electric.

The Backstory:

KESC is a brand that Karachiites absolutely love to hate. For its part, KESC has undoubtedly earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most hated brands in the country, thanks to the legendary blackouts that once haunted this city of 23.5 million. In what could be the biggest irony since Veena Malik’s Ramzan Show, Karachi was (is?) referred to as the city of lights.

But. Over the past couple of years, KESC has made impressive strides in tackling the seemingly impossible task of solving Karachi’s electricity conundrum. You see, now many parts of the city do not get any load shedding at all with most remaining areas on scheduled cuts (as opposed to random, indefinite blackouts). And that is quite an achievement in this given scenario. The utility is progressing financially too: it posted its first profitable year in 2012 ($30m) after decades of losses. KESC has also engaged in a strategy of being open about their troubles and in all maintain a very commendable marketing and communication presence. Their timely replies on social media – even to our criticism – are something to appreciate.

While they did overcome the worst of their tests, KESC was nevertheless stuck with a brand that was severely tarnished, perhaps to the point of being permanently damaged. Despite their success, their name and reputation was synonymous with chaos, unreliability and mismanagement. KESC clearly wanted to celebrate the turnaround that has given Karachiites yet another edge over archrival Lahore in addition to, for example, having a beach.

So, in all, they did have a valid case of rebranding and even renaming (for renaming such a well-known entity is no light endeavor).

Now that we have established the backstory in quite some detail, it’s time to have a look at the actual rebranding effort and declare it for what it’s worth.

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The Rebranding:

Let’s be clear with this one. Despite the rebranding having a valid case behind it and being presumably well-intentioned, the results are appalling.

The name, K-Electric, sounds like one of those ultra-cheap Chinese brands that make replacement remote controls for old TVs. And a name with a hyphen? God. no. It is cumbersome on digital environments (this inconvenience will eventually lead everyone to use the name incorrectly e.g. kelec, ke, etc.). With the world moving towards simplicity, this complicated name is a not just a step, but a sprint in the wrong direction.

With the name having failed to set any reliable foundations to build the brand on, we turn hopefully to the visuals for redemption. Unfortunately, the state of affairs in this area is even more pathetic.

Sporting a look and feel that immediately brings to mind $10 stock logo websites, The K-Electric logo is unappealing and uninspired at the same time. And those shapes? They could be leaves..? Um, but orange and blue leaves? According to KE:

The logo comprises of three feathers of a Partridge, rep our focus on Orange: Energy, Blue: Community & Green: Environment.

Only that feathers like these, without any sort of visual context, could only be of a partridge that’s dead and skinned and is being enjoyed with gravy and naan. You know what, ‘random inspiring shapes’ is our best bet, really. And that nineties color palette. It’s horrendous. Perhaps appropriate for a dotcom startup in 1994 but certainly not acceptable in 2014. And the typography is abysmal. Unsophisticated and amateur are the most appropriate adjectives for it.

All in all a terrible waste of an ample opportunity.

Project Credits:

Done in-house by the KE branding team.

Icon on title illustration by Erika Jasso from The Noun Project

najwat rehmanby Najwat Rehman

While he wears many hats, Najwat is a design thinker at the core. He loves anything and everything to do with design and has a special interest in branding and user interaction/experience design. He is also the Founder & Editor of The Desi Design.