It’s the first question asked whenever the issue of a new brand identity comes up, and it’s often the most hotly contested one too:
‘Do we need a new logo?’
The arguements for and against can be as compeling as they are hard fought, and understandably so, it’s a big question with a lot of ramifications, not to mention emotions. Most identity designers or marketers can point to high-profile horror stories of when its all gone very wrong. Gap’s failed rebrand in 2010 is usually cited as the worst case scenario which resulted in them reverting back to their timeless, classic logo after just a few weeks. Not just a lot of money wasted but also a lot of egg to clean from their very public face.
It’s true that one of the hallmarks of a good logo is timelessness, but just like Dad’s trendy new suit might have looked the part in 1985 it probably doesn’t really cut it today. Pretty much all graphic design has a shelf life no matter how good it is, styles change and logos are no exception. Even the timeless ones. Unlike Dad’s suit however there’s likely to be a lot of very valuable equity inherent in the logo, so throwing it out is never a decision to take lightly.
The best solution is often the design equivalent of a spring clean – a logo refresh.
Reasons to refresh
There are three good reasons why a refresh often trumps a redesign. The first and most obvious is recognition, and the longer the logo has been around for, and the more people have been exposed to it, the greater the equity there is to carefuly guard. The caveat to this of course is when a business or their brand has misbehaved or underperformed, and people have turned away. Then it’s all about change, change, change, and as quickly as possible.
The second reason is not to loose the core values of the brand. When you simply refresh your current logo, keeping hold of its essence, the message is always clear – your core values remain unchanged. It will be understood that you are merely moving with the times and remaining relevant. Again, if your values were a bit shoddy to start with a full redesign is definitely the way forward, once you’ve addressed your values of course!
The third reason is the cost of a full roll-out, it’s usually going to cost a fortune to replace every single branded item in the organisation all at once, especially when you have fleets of vehicles or logos etched into glass everywhere. However if the refresh isn’t too drastic then the old and the new can co-exist comfortably for a while. It becomes a much easier proposition of replacing things gradually at the end of their normal lifespan.
With huge amounts of brand equity at stake the big multinational brands are past masters of the logo refresh, sometimes their efforts to keep their brand image firmly in the present are so subtle that they can even go un-noticed by a large number of people. Be honest, did you really notice the likes of Lego, Mailchimp or Firefox make their incredibly subtle changes?
A couple of trends
Looking at some of the more high profile logo refreshes of late a couple of trends seem to have emerged. There’s the disappearance of the names and there’s the appearance of the gradients.
The first trend isn’t really a trend though, it’s a strategic branding decision, and one that’s made only when the brand has gone through a critical mass of awareness. In other words, when just about everyone on the planet knows who you are. Not many brands are in that enviable position of course, but those who are are chosing to drop the name, or at least the product name in their logo. After all, why be restricted to being a ‘pizza brand’ when you can just be ‘a brand’?
Everyone loves a gradient effect in their logo nowadays. It’s a trend that seems to have been led by just about all of the car manufacturers on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against gradients, they certainly work for the car brands out there but as the saying goes ‘fashion fades but style is eternal’. It’s worth taking a healthy dose of caution when designing logos – what’s on-trend today can easily be a bit kitsch tomorrow, and mistakes are a lot more costly than just ditching last year’s wardrobe. A recent example is Adelaide Airport, I know some people love it, but will it stand the test of time?
Sometimes there’s no escaping the need for a full rebrand Almost all businesses consider the idea of re-branding at one time or another. Staying relevant and competing against new, hipper-looking competitors can be a constant battle. But a full re-branding isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes a simple refresh that keeps the integrity of your brand is the better option.