Whenever a famous logo, especially one that’s been around for a long time, goes for a change, there is criticism from the public. Thanks to social media and its 24×7 outrage treadmill, the noise seems amplified of late. Some of the recent instances of logo outrage include Google, Gap, Airtel and now Wipro. The backlash for the new Gap logo was so intense that the company had to revert to their old logo. Airbnb got its share of criticism but ignored it completely. People have also critiqued every element of revamped Google and Airtel logos. What drives such reactions?
We like familiar things to remain familiar: unknowingly many brands and their ‘look’ become part of our lives over time. Knowing that one is interacting with a familiar entity gives a feeling of re-assurance and authenticity. When such an entity begins to look different there is a feeling of discomfort.
The podium of social media: any form of creativity – books, movies, advertising, come in for criticism from the general public. People react spontaneously lot such stimuli labelling them as lousy or good (being indifferent is way worse than being labelled lousy, I guess). The expert in us is also awakened during sporting events with many of us mentally playing ‘coach’ to the players. For us all, social media has given a podium and turned on the spotlight. So nothing is spared – a brand’s product quality, advertising, service quality… everything is up for critique.
In this context, logo changes of popular brands coming under the microscope is not surprising. However, I feel the initial outrage gives way to acceptance pretty soon simply because of visibility over time leading to familiarity. Brands like Google, Firefox and Airtel have scope for great visibility multiple times in a day and the new look becomes part of our lives pretty fast.
Does it mean that logos are unimportant? Of course not. A brand’s logo is a critical element in the marketing mix as it is the first consumer interaction. It has the potential to convey meaning. I emphasise on ‘potential’ because it is not mandatory for every logo to ‘tell a story’. A logo must be attractive, memorable, relevant to the industry and fitting for context in which there will be consumer interaction; in my view, if it conveys a story (that too in an instant) it is a bonus. But most importantly, the product delivery supersedes everything else. If the product experience is sub-optimal a well-designed logo cannot salvage the situation. A logo must compliment the service or industry the brand is in and the context in which brand interaction will take place. The logo of a luxury hotel cannot be crude, gauche – it must have premium cues. Similarly, the consideration for Google will be the context – how it will look as an app icon, for example.
If there is a brand story behind the evolution of a logo, it must be apparent without taking too much mental effort to decode it. Also when the brand story is explained it must feel right in relation to the how the brand’s business and how it is perceived. In that context, I thought the Unilever logo does a good job – it conveys the diverse nature of the business at the same time being a simple ‘U’ which stands for Unilever.
Unilever’s logo is comprised of 25 unique icons, each symbolizing an important part of the company’s business strategy as well as commitment to social good. Separately, each tiny icon expresses a grain of the company’s core values; as a whole, they express Unilever’s identity. Intricately woven together to form a U-shape, the icons are colored blue, evoking sentiments of prosperity, calm, purity, and trustworthiness.
The fuss over logo changes is also fuelled by the jargon and gobbledygook that often accompanies such efforts. In 2009, a document outlining the thinking behind Pepsi logo change came for severe criticism because it had gems like this:
The vocabulary of truth and simplicity is a reoccurring phenomena in the brand’s history. It communicates the brand in a timeless manner and with an expression of clarity. Pepsi BREATHTAKING builds on this knowledge. True innovation always begins by investigating the historic path. Going back-to-the-roots moves the brand forward as it changes the trajectory of the future.
There was this about Godrej:
Citrus green is about expression, representing growth, harmony with nature and renewed life. Sky blue embodies progression – big ideas, blue sky thinking, technology and innovation. Ruby red reflects cherished experiences – passion, indulgence, energy and dynamism. The typeface connotes continuity, a strong sense of empathy built on the strong foundation.
As far as the new Wipro logo is concerned, my views are as follows:
- it is a simple, colourful and memorable logo. Yes, on closer examination it is quite similar to the Reuters logo but that is unlikely to cause confusion in the minds of Wipro’s target audience which is CXOs at large companies and the talent community
- there is an element of credibility to the back story of this logo representing ‘the way the company “connects the dots” for its clients, integrating deep technology and domain expertise, applying insights from across industries‘. We do live in an interconnected world and that seems to fit in with the company’s efforts in the much-used ‘digital transformation’ domain
- Over time, the company’s target audience and the general public will get used to it and begin to accept it if not love it
- Unlike restaurants and services which can focus on one element of the product experience (as seen in some of the logo examples like Yoga Australia) bringing alive a corporate brand in a logo is complex. Hence, the story will not be telegraphic and will take time and effort to convey
The average consumer will react in an instant at a gut level and unless it is singularly grotesque or incongruent with the brand persona, will move on with life. The analysis paralysis which follows is an inevitable part of our digital-driven lives now but the fuss is misplaced. Your comments?