Time For Change: When the Logo Becomes the Problem

By: Jonathan

One of the best representations of the ideas and concepts covered by this class is the logo based American flag that graces the top of this website. After revisiting the Klein article and the piece by Lasn, I noticed an interesting trend that seems to parallel the ideas of each respective author. Klein made some excellent points on the expansion of branding and how it functions as “thirstily soaking up cultural ideas and iconography…projecting these ideas and images back on the culture as ‘extensions’” (Klein 29). Klein made the important distinction that manufacturers and retailers seek to infuse their brands with meaning until they become a part of culture. Lasn showed how this consumer binge on media can easily carry some very negative effects. The author went into great detail to explain how this overexposure is making the people sick, manipulating emotions and ultimately making them more and more indifferent. The concepts of an indifferent population and a culturally driven logo campaign combine to raise a very interesting question. What happens when the people become indifferent to the logo? It seems that despite extensive efforts to indoctrinate their logo into a cultural setting, some companies eventually concede to the fact that they may have missed the mark. It is interesting to examine how a logo’s long life can influence its interpretation. From one perspective, a logo that has been around for a while can easily become stale and overexposed to the point where it feels dated. At the same time, other companies have been able to build their logos onto of a foundation of history and legacy (see: McDonalds, Ford, and Coca-Cola). Ultimately, corporations will give a long list of reasons as to why they have revamped their logo. But in the end, their motives seem to hold a fairly common line of thought. It is an admittance of cultural defeat.

It is fascinating to examine some of the reasons as to why a corporation may want to reinvent its logo. One of the most recent cases involved not only the company’s logo, but its actual name. Comcast ended up changing its name to Xfinity in an attempt to escape its terrible reputation in the social sphere. The former Comcast had become so synonymous with poor customer service that it was a cultural failure. In a sense, the company had found a way to make its mark; the only problem was that it was a very negative one.

A less extreme example of recent logo changing involved the Clorox Company. On September 29 Clorox made a dramatic change to its logo (which had been largely unaltered since 1957). It is interesting to see the company’s justification for the change. “Our new logo better communicates what The Clorox Company stands for today,” said Clorox Chairman and CEO Don Knauss. “We’ve kept visual elements that reflect our heritage, but we emphasized our forward-thinking mindset and objective to achieve strong growth, drive innovation and focus on sustainability”. This statement makes me wonder if so many elements can be incorporated into a simple logo. How does a logo express a “forward thinking mindset?” I guess it is up to the viewer to form their own meaning.

Another great example is the logo change made by the YMCA. In July, the company decided to part ways with its 43 year old logo for a fresh look. Louie Warren, president and CEO, said the rebranding efforts started two years ago with national market research. “I think it’s going to better reflect the vibrancy of the organization and the diversity of the communities we serve” Apparently, the old (and recognizable) logo was not vibrant enough. I am not entirely sure as to how a logo can express diversity, but according to Warren, this new look for the YMCA does just that.

In the end, a company can create whatever logo it chooses, it is up to the people to decide its meaning. In some cases, the branding is a success and is able to become a part of culture itself. Other times, a logo misses the mark. More commonly today, it seems as though corporations are reaching towards a fresh look as they turn their backs to the historic value of their iconic logos. CEO’s seem to deliver the same sound bites as to why the change was necessary. They often sound incredibly optimistic, but it is little more than an admittance of branding defeat. They are able to remain optimistic because in American culture there will always be room for another logo.

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One Response to Time For Change: When the Logo Becomes the Problem

  1. Pingback: Model Blog Entries | Popular Culture

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