Part 4 in our series on branding
(note: we will return to discussing culture in a follow-on post)
After 30 days of teasing new logotype treatments for “Yahoo!,” the company revealed its new logo to the world on September 4. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and her internal design team had spent a weekend together to create the new logo.
What are the implications for Yahoo!, and for the rest of us marketers? Get our take in this week’s ZUZA Marketer’s Blog.
18 years old. Time to go?
Here’s what the old Yahoo! logo looked like:
It was fun, whimsical, even a little goofy, supported by the Yahoo! yodel that became its trademark. The letters are not symmetrical, and their attributes, such as serifs, are not uniform. The lines are never straight. And the exclamation point is at an angle. Plus, it’s purple. Not power red. Not calming blue. Not sunny yellow. But purple. Purple is a little offbeat. Think Prince, and Purple Rain. In fact, everything about this logo is a little offbeat.
I’d say it’s a pretty inspired piece of logo design.
This logo bowed out on September 4, 2013, after faithfully serving Yahoo!, through good times and not-so-good times, for 18 years.
Is their anything wrong with it? Did it need to go?
Logos that have lasted longer than 18 years.
While the very first logos for Ford Motor Company would look completely unfamiliar today, here’s what it looked like come 1927:
And here’s the most recent evolution of Ford’s logo:
It’s got a little bit of a 3D treatment applied to it, but, essentially, it is the very same logo as the one from 1927, and has remained largely unchanged since then. So has the company – it still makes cars.
Coke standardized on this logotype by 1905:
Here’s how it’s looked from 1941 to now (72 years and counting):
One could argue that a basic logotype conceived over 100 years ago looks too old-fashioned to represent as important a brand as Coke today.
One could also argue that one of the reasons Coke has stayed such a strong brand is that it has remained consistent for over 100 years. In other words, you always know what that logotype stands for: the distinct taste of Coke (now Coke Classic), emanating from that secret formula which has also remained unchanged since the beginning. Coke is a brand you can trust. You know what you’re getting. The unchanging logo serves as a consistent a reminder.
Here is another strong brand whose logo has remained essentially unchanged since 1900. Now that’s staying power (pun intended).
Logos in Internet Time
Perhaps comparing an online company to companies that make physical products is unfair. Things move much faster in Internet time, right? One could assume that logo refreshes for Internet companies should occur more often then, right? Well, Facebook hasn’t changed one bit since 2005, and in my view, it would be foolish to change it now. Facebook is one of the strongest brands in the world, and the logotype is an instantly recognizable reminder of what Facebook stands for.
Google has wisely resisted changing its logo as well. In 2010, the company made only a modest refresh to the logo that has been recognized the world over since its introduction in 1999.
Resisting change that’s just for the sake of change.
When do companies change their logos? Typically, they do this when they feel they need to let their customers (both external and internal – i.e. employees) know that something is significantly different about the company now, and, significantly better.
Apple did this in 1998, when it took the rainbow out of its logo and went to a single color:
When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he wanted to send a very strong message to the entire world that Apple was about to be a very different company than it had been. He could have just changed the logo, as so many companies do, and then stuck to business as usual.
Instead, Apple introduced the candy-colored iMac computer, a curvy, cute device that looked nothing like other PCs (remember those beige boxes?). The iMac had a built-in screen and translucent plastics all around. This thing was different. And it sold like proverbial hotcakes.
Apple went on to become the consummate case study for corporate reinvention.
Yet, look at what didn’t change. Compare the new logo to the old one. Except for the removal of color, they are exactly the same. Steve Jobs paid homage to the greatness Apple had represented once before by keeping the shape and proportions exactly the same. The color shift indicated a promise of greatness to come.
The key here is that Apple delivered on that promise. The logo was no mere cosmetic change. Steve Jobs and his executive team gutted and reinvented the culture of Apple to become a company that has defined the very way we communicate and engage with each other today. The iPod and the iPhone have made the world a drastically different place. And they came from a company that made only a minor change to its logo – and major changes to its business. Smart.
Most companies never get that far. They change their logo. They change their tagline. They change their mission statement. They make these changes over and over. But they don’t fundamentally change the way they do business – what they offer to the world, how they serve customers, and the internal culture that drives this.
I would say that changing your logo but not changing anything else is actually a form of lying to your customers. Changing the logo signifies that you are changing the company for the better. If you don’t actually follow through and change the company, this means you haven’t kept the promise of the logo change. This only creates brand confusion and degrades customer trust of your brand.
As we’ve said before, if all you change is your logo and nothing else, it’s the same as putting lipstick on a pig – the pig is still a pig – and probably not very happy wearing lipstick.
The logo is a supporting player, not a brand.
Your business is your brand.
Just as no one player can be a team, your logo is not your brand. You may have heard this cliché many times before, but it bears repeating because so many companies seem focused on changing their logo and not their business. Your brand is not a logo, typeface, color palette, package design, or ad campaign theme. Yes, those all contribute to the overall experience of your brand, but as supporting players – just like all the other touch points we covered in our previous post, “Brand Touch Points.” http://zuzamam.com/brand-touchpoints/ . In other words, your business is your brand.
In fact, you could have what is arguably a boring (or even ugly) logo, such as IBM (#3 brand in the world*), Wells Fargo (#13), or Budweiser (#34), and still have a hugely successful brand, because the totality of the experience you’ve created for customers, that is, the way you do business, is a good one. I would argue that your logo plays only the tiniest part in your company’s success. It serves as a quick reminder to people that you are the company that provides an awesome experience – so people won’t have to think when searching for products; they’ll see your logo and pick yours. That is, if yours is a brand people trust – because you’ve created a consistent, awesome total brand experience for your customers – external and internal.
Getting back to Yahoo!. Did the old logo have to go?
That remains to be seen. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and company are trying to send us all a signal that Yahoo! is changing significantly for the better.
Now Yahoo! has to prove it.
So far, the company seems to be moving in the right direction, with the recent acquisition of numerous companies and their talented development teams, and the dramatic improvement of many of its properties, from its home page to Flickr to Yahoo! Weather. Users seem to be responding positively. In fact, on one day in August 2013, Yahoo! actually had more visitors to its website than Google. So far, all signs are that the company really is changing significantly, and for the better.
Now, does the new logo look better or worse than the previous logo? I’ll leave that up to you.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.
*BRANDZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013 (http://www.millwardbrown.com/brandz/2013/Top100/Docs/2013_BrandZ_Top100_Chart.pdf )