July 26, 2013
I admit that I am a borderline traditionalist. This is not to say that I don’t like change, let’s face it, we’re in an industry that changes regularly, but change for the sake of change is a typically a non-starter with me. For example, recently Mrs. Crosby thought it was time to update the dining room. I, on the other hand, could not see the need to change a room that gets used once or twice a year on Thanksgiving and every other Christmas. This seemingly intractable situation was only resolved when she pointed out to me that the dogs had urinated on the oriental rug and the spots detracted from our guest’s focus on our good china. Naturally, faced with this level of unassailable logic and visual evidence, I capitulated. I’m sure that when the family gathers to devour turkey and stuffing this coming November, this new rug-china linkage will be a major topic of table discussion. Despite my somewhat more flexible stance on home décor, my natural hesitancy toward change is particularly acute when company’s decide to “update their image” by changing their logos.
Typically the excuse given for major logo revisions is to present the company as more in touch with the contemporary environment. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure that this is a strategy that can be universally applied across all industries. Does the look of a logo really have that big an impact on the success or failure of an on-going enterprise? Hooters, for example, recently showed off their new logo. The owl eyes that punctuated the double o’s now have a stylized body attached to them. While I applaud the desire for ornithological correctness, I’m not exactly sure what problem this change was supposed to address. Were millions of testosterone-fueled men suddenly faced with some type of collective identity crisis? “How can I feel good about eating my buffalo wings at an establishment that advertises itself with a disembodied barn owl, and what does that say about me as a person?” Since the standard attire of a Hooters employee is antithetical to say, the fetching frocks normally worn by the average Amish female, it seems unlikely that a less than contemporary logo could be numbered among the firm’s obstacles to continued financial success. If they were worried about the fickleness of their clientele wouldn’t it have made more sense to do something like add wraps and Greek yogurt to the menu?
While the desire to remain “hip” is certainly a common goal for many of us, does it really matter to most businesses? In many instances it seems like the fealty of an organization to its logo is a demonstration of stability that customers can depend on. You can go to some of the farthest locations on earth and yet seeing a McDonald’s or Coke logo can make things seem a little less remote. When I am seeking dependable solutions for shipping a package, or even buying a box of cereal, I know that when I see the FedEx or Kellogs’ logos I am using a product I can depend on. Would a stylized “Tony the Tiger” compel me to purchase large quantities of Frosted Flakes? Doubtful, since I’m more of a Captain Crunch man myself.
Naturally there are some times when a new logo is essential. Like when two companies merge for example since hyphenated logos just don’t look right on the letterhead. Usually this union of organizations reconciles itself in one of two ways. Either the company with the crummier logo winds up using its new partner’s more aesthetically pleasing counterpart, or the two firms decide both of their logos are really lame and come up with something new. These, however, are the exceptions.
Personally I’ve always felt that when a company changes its logo it reflects a basic level of insecurity within the organization regarding the quality of its products and services. In other words, bad companies change their logo while good companies keep theirs. For example, Morton’s Salt has had that same girl with an umbrella on their canisters for something like 100 years, and the biggest change they ever made was the color of her dress. Obviously, the guys and gals at Morton’s are secure in their product and not worrying about contemporary styles since pinafores haven’t been on anyone’s must have list for 70 years or so. This just goes to show that products may come and go but a good logo is forever.