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Logos Can Be Dangerous for Brand Health
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It never ceases to amaze me how many companies think that a major part of re-positioning or ‘re-branding’ means changing the brand logo, and how many CEO’s wanting to make their “mark’ on the company as they come in start to think about logo changes.

Let’s put this in perspective. Logos are useful devices for consumers because when they see a logo representing a brand this sight automatically triggers off mental associations of the brand, the experience they have had with it, what they think about the company who owns it and so on. In other words, logos are a part of the brand’s visual identity.

One of the basic rules of good brand management is to achieve consistency across everything a brand does and says. This includes visual identity. So it is not a good idea to remove a logo that has positive brand equity associated with it. If we look at some of the world’s top brands, such as Heinz and Shell, we see that they have they retained the logo for a hundred years or more with only slight modifications to bring up a little bit more modernity and relevance. Why? Because to change their logos would be a waste of all the time, money, and other resources that have gone into building brand equity over that number of years.

A recent example is that of US retailer GAP, whose logo for the last twenty years until October 2010 had been a blue box with “GAP” written in white inside it. They changed it on their website to show “Gap” in black on a light background with a small blue square behind the top of the letter “p”.

The result was consumer revolt across online forums, with over 2,000 comments posted on the company’s Facebook page, many of which demanded a return of the old logo. Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, said on the website that the company’s customers always come first, and that, “We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that – we will bring it back across all channels.” After admitting that GAP had not gone about the logo change in the right way she said that it had “missed the opportunity to engage with the online community” and that “There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.”

There are a couple of good lessons we can learn from the brands mentioned above. Firstly, as brand managers we should remember that brands are relationships and customers are their friends. And just as people do not like to see their friends changing their behaviour, neither do customers when their brands suddenly change. Customers are the ones who build and ‘own’ brands and will be very vocal if they feel ignored or not consulted about brand changes. Secondly, strong, disciplined, brand management is all about evolution and not revolution, and that goes for logos too.

Another brand insight from Paul Temporal