When a brand changes its baseline, it doesn’t usually create a flutter. Pepsi can go from ‘Dil Maange More’ to ‘Youngistaan ka Wow’ with ease. A Vodafone can move to ‘Make the most of now’ from er…whatever it was earlier (see what I mean?) without people even noticing it. But logos, especially of established brands – that’s a different matter.
We all know what happened to Gap with their attempt to change the logo. In today’s world, where every little move of the brand – especially in the high involvement, service category- is open for public scrutiny and criticism. Earlier we used to learn about say a new logo (remember the Air India logo change? Or the Asian Paints one?), discuss it among friends or read about the negative reaction in the papers. Today, social media offers a chance for everyone to play critic – one can ridicule, pillory, rant, vent…on any subject or personality under the sun. The new Airtel logo has come in for severe criticism on Twitter – deservedly so, perhaps.
If you look at logo changes of popular brands over the years, they usually are a progression. They retain some iconic or well-known elements from the previous logo, so that there is some sort of familiarity.
Image source: Adhack
Among 50 examples of great brand re-design you will find some common link: the re-designed logos look decidedly contemporary or it retains a familiar symbol from the previous logo. It is critical for brands to remain contemporary, especially for those brands which have a significant interaction with the youth. So one can understand the need for Airtel to keep re-inventing itself.
Airtel, like most telecom companies may not be a ‘popular’ brand in the true sense of the word (service issues are part of every telecom brand) but its a ubiquitous brand. It’s visible in every street corner and is on TV everyday. So its important that people don’t react violently towards the brand. The logo change and the related press releases has given just the right fodder to take pot shots at the brand. A typical reaction from an irate consumer would be that Airtel would have been better off putting the money in improving their network & customer service.
Gap went back to its old logo within a month. Will Airtel follow suit? Unlikely, me thinks. People will get used to the new logo thanks to the sheer visibility of the brand. And the public has a short memory – remember the iPad name jokes when the brand name was revealed? Once the device was deemed a success, people move on.
In Airtel’s case, it’s not merely a logo change:
a strategic shift in positioning since the company was catering to customers in more than 19 countries, Bharti Airtel CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal said, “The brand needs to speak to different countries… think internationally. The brand has to connect with the youth in the geographies that we are in”.
Apart from new geographies, I think the brand’s challenge is to mean the same thing across various businesses beyond telecom. Which is why ‘closer to what you love‘. More on that in another post.