Brand Logo Makeovers for the Digital Age

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It seems like everyone is doing it these days—giving their logos major makeovers. From Google, Hershey, Pizza Hut, and American Airlines to Southwest and IHOP, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Such logo redesigns can be risky. Customers often form strong attachments to their favorite brands and the logos that represent them. Brand logos can be like a pair of old shoes—familiar and comforting—and customers often don’t take kindly to changes. Given the risks, why are so many companies reworking their logos? Companies have always taken great care to craft simple, easily recognized logos that quickly identify and position their brands and trigger positive consumer associations. However, in today’s digital world, brand logos are being asked to do more than ever. A logo is no longer just a static symbol placed on a printed page, package, TV ad, billboard, or store display. Instead, today’s logos must also meet the demands of an ever-more diverse set of digital devices and media. A brand logo that looks great and communicates well on a package or in a magazine ad might fail miserably in a social media setting on a smartphone screen. Today’s logos must stand out visually on screens of all sizes, from big-screen TVs to tablets, mobile phones, and even smartwatches. Often, they must also function as interactive icons or animated activity indicators on the web, mobile, and social media pages. As a result, companies are adapting their logos to keep them in sync with the rapidly evolving digital times. Most logo modifications focus on creating simpler, brighter, more modern designs that present better on digital screens and platforms. For example, Hershey flipped its colors from light letters on a dark field to dark letters on a white field while also replacing its long-standing image of a Hershey’s Kiss wrapped in silver foil with a more contemporary silhouette version. Pizza Hut’s new logo consists of a simple pizza-shaped medallion with the brand name and familiar roof symbol reversed out in white. And Southwest went from black all-capital letters beneath a jumbo jet image too bright blue letters in title format accompanied by its signature heart icon in rainbow colors. Such redesigns have multiple aims, but the primary objective is to make the logos more digital device friendly. For example, the old IHOP logo had white letters placed on a blue field with a downward-curving red banner containing the word restaurant. Now, IHOP’s letters are blue on a white field, a design that stands out better against the white backgrounds on most web, mobile, and social media sites. The new logo also replaces the old frown-like “restaurant” banner with an upward curving red line under the o and the p, creating a smiley face that adds a burst of happiness to the brand. Some logo redesigns go much, much deeper. For example, consider the recent changes to Google’s familiar blue, red, green, and yellow logo. At first glance, the changes seem minor—you might not even have noticed them. The letter colors remain largely the same, as does the childlike quality that we’ve come to associate with the Google brand. The biggest difference is the new typeface—Google changed its old serif typeface (with little lines and squiggles at the ends of letters) to a sans serif typeface (one like this without the added lines and squiggles). The result is a simpler, cleaner, more readable logo. According to Google, the logo change was motivated mostly by mobile usage. The streamlined font shrinks down more legibly than fancier fonts, so it transfers more readily across all kinds of screens. Google claims that its new logo can be read just as well on a 2.5-inch Android Wear watch as it can on a 50-inch TV screen.

Brand logo makeovers: Many companies are

redesigning their logos to keep them in sync

with the rapidly evolving digital times

But Google didn’t just change the logo typeface. It created a full kit of new brand logo tools befitting the digital age. For example, recognizing that six letters are just too many for some uses, Google also created a more compact one-letter version, a G in the new sans typeface, partitioned into the four familiar Google colors. It also fashioned a contemporary four-color microphone icon that users can tap to speak into an Android device. Finally, it crafted a set of four animated dots (one in each color) for use during interactive and transitional moments to indicate activities such as waiting, thinking, speaking, and replying. All of the new Google logo elements work seamlessly together. So, for example, when you pick up your phone and activate the Google microphone icon, “the Google logo will morph from ‘Google’ into the dots, which undulate like water in anticipation of your query,” notes one reporter. “As you talk, the dots will become an equalizer, reacting to the sound of your vocalizations. Then when you’re done talking, the waveform becomes dots again, which spin as Google looks up your results. Then once the results are presented, the dots return to good old ‘Google’ again.” Thus, the Google logo is no longer just a static emblem that sits atop an online search bar. It’s a full set of dynamic symbols that bring the brand and its many functions to life across today’s digital screens and platforms. Companies need to tread carefully when making changes to their brand logos.Such changes often require a huge investment. For example, Southwest’s seemingly simple logo redesign requires sweeping changes that touch almost every aspect of the company’s operations. Just think of all the places you see Southwest’s logo—from its advertising, web, and social media activities to the graphics on its airplanes and the design of its airport gates to its corporate letterhead. Everything must be redone to reflect the new logo look. Perhaps more important, the old logos closely link brands to the hearts and minds of consumers. Studies show that the stronger their attachments to a brand, the more resistant consumers are to logo changes. For example, although most experts would agree that the new Hershey logo is a vast improvement, some consumers balked, suggesting that the silhouette Kiss resembles a lump of poop. “All I can see is the emoji poo,” says one perplexed observer. “With apologies to Hershey: Your new logo kinda stinks.” And when American Airlines replaced its familiar 45-year-old “eagle” logo with a more modern version, the new logo became a flashpoint for both brand fans and detractors. Although the redesign was probably overdue, fans lamented the loss of the classic design, whereas detractors claimed that the millions spent on repainting all of American’s planes should have been invested in improving the airline’s customer service. Such examples highlight the powerful connections people have to the visual representations of their brands. When logo changes are required—as they most certainly will be at some point—the best course is to alert customers to the upcoming changes and to explain why they are needed. Google did that in a widely distributed video showing the evolution of its logo and the reasons behind the most recent redesign. That’s one reason that its massive logo makeover went so smoothly. As the video explains, “We think we’ve taken the best of Google (simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly), and recast it not just for the Google of today, but for the Google of tomorrow.”