Most of the world’s biggest brands have changed their logos at least once. Many of them have done so several times throughout their histories. Some marks, like the ones used by Coca-Cola and Shell, have evolved, but remain consistent with their original designs. Others, such as those used by Nokia and IBM, have undergone dramatic changes. Why would some of these large companies change the graphics that were driving their brands?
Below, we’ll explain the five most common reasons companies update or redesign their logos. There may come a time in the future when one of the following factors prompts you to do the same.
Some logos began as complicated emblems that are less useful today. For example, in 1976, Apple’s mark was an illustrative representation of Sir Issac Newton sitting under an apple tree. It was bordered by part of a poem written by William Wordsworth. Today, of course, Apple’s graphic is a stylized monochrome depiction of an apple.
If your company’s current logo design is overly-complex, your audience may have trouble understanding its message. While complicated designs can be effective in specific circumstances, simple graphics are usually best, especially if you’re planning on using billboards, posters, or sticker printing. A simple logo will lower the cost of printing over time.
When large companies merge, it’s often necessary to have a new logo designed that reflects the combined entity. For example, Citicorp and Travelers merged in 1998. Prior to their merger, each company had a distinct brand mark. Following the merger, a new logo was designed to represent the combined business. This was also the case following mergers between Bank of America and Nation’s Bank, Nextel and Sprint, and Gulf Oil and Standard Oil.
A newly-merged company represents a new corporate culture, and usually, an updated brand. Thus, a new brand mark is necessary.
Companies change their names for a variety of reasons (in addition to merging with other companies). For example, one or more words in a company’s name may evolve over the years to take on new meanings that are irrelevant – or worse, damaging – to its brand. Or, a multinational corporation may build a presence in a country that identifies certain words with negative connotations.
Canon was once known as Kwannon. IBM was once called The International Time Recording Company. MasterCard was once known as Master Charge. When the name of a business changes, the old logo becomes obsolete. A new one must be designed.
Sometimes, a brand mark can begin to look dated. Year after year, it appears increasingly passé to the company’s customers. Customers become bored with the logo, which reflects poorly on the business’s brand to the point that it begins to affect their position in their market. This is a common reason companies redesign their logos. It is an attempt to reinvigorate them.
The graphics for FedEx, Audi, and Coca-Cola represent “reboots” of past designs. When launched, each was intent on retaining the most important facets of the companies’ respective brands while resuscitating their stagnant logos.
Corporate brands often attract negative publicity. While a well-executed PR campaign can help weather the blow, more extreme measures are often necessary. For example, by 2002, oil and gas company, BP, had drawn enormous criticism for its environmental record. Some estimated the company was responsible for more than 100 oil spills between 1997 and 1998 alone. BP changed its logo in 2002 in order to reposition its brand.
Your company is unlikely to confront negative publicity severe enough to warrant a major logo redesign. However, a redesign can be an effective tactic for shifting the public’s attention, and rebranding your business.
Your logo represents your corporate identity. It remains in front of your audience at all times, reminding them of your commercial brand. While its design is critical, realize that some circumstances warrant an update and sometimes, a complete redesign.