Google unveiled their new logo a couple of weeks ago and the world gave a collective yawn. Not so much a new anything as an update of the typeface of their current logo. And while in the hype driven media landscape anything that is not a revolution is seen as a waste of time, Google’s restrained evolution is actually part of a long trend embraced by many large corporations that more SMEs could embrace.
Looking across the landscape of big corporates such as GE, Apple, Coca Cola, IBM – just to name a few, evolution is the name of the game. Their logos change in small steps over time, so although the overall feel stays fresh it’s still the logo people know.
I’ve worked with SMEs for many years and written about the ins and outs of logos many times. You can read a few of my thoughts here and here and here. So why do SMEs so often ditch their identities at the drop a hat (or more accurately at the suggestion of a marketing or design agency)?
I think by changing their logo many organsiations feel they are taking a bold step. Taking control of something in a landscape where a lot feels out of control.
However, it costs a lot to change a logo in an established business (well in any business but particularly in those that have been around a while). There’s the actual cost of producing the logo. But that’s just the start. Here are a just a few of the other costs of changing your logo that aren’t often talked about during the sales pitch.
Let’s start with the time it takes. First there is the whole buzz of the creative process. It’s fun to brainstorm and throw around ideas. Then once you get to concept stage, its all about who likes what and why. Opinions and other ideas pile on. And you go through round and round of changes and options until it feels like your head might explode.
Through all of this the decision about what the new logo should be starts to take on life or death importance. We’ve spent all this time so we might as well get it right. But there is no “right”. People don’t know what it isn’t, they only see what it is and as long as you stand behind that so will everyone else.
And while engaged in the life and death decision making of whether the shape needs to be a bit more square. Or whether that’s exactly the right shade of hopeful blue. Things that really matter to building your brand and business get scant attention by comparison.
This brings me to the second hidden cost of the new logo. It’s a distraction from the infinitely less fun, but oh so much more important day-to-day operational details of the business. I’ve never seen a cost benefit analysis on this but I’m certain that if you were to weigh up the benefit to the business of a new logo versus perhaps fixing a supply chain issue that is causing product defects, the latter would be way out in front. Sure businesses can do both, but in my experience the fun shiny object often gets focused on first.
Logos also pop up in a myriad of places and when you change it all those places have to change too. Stationary is just the tip of the iceberg. Add marketing materials, forms, packaging, signs, giveaways… even with much being online or soft copy, you still have to update it all or risk confusing people about who you are.
This brings us to customers and the marketplace that have come to recognize you by your current logo. Sure launching the new one can be an opportunity to connect with them and might drive a brief bump in activity but it might also cause confusion. But whichever happens, any impact a new logo has will be relatively short-lived.
People have got more important things to think about than your new logo. So if they bought from you before they will probably keep buying from you. And if they didn’t buy from you before a new logo is unlikely to change that.
So next time you’re thinking about logos it might be worth taking a leaf out of Google’s book. Evolution not revolution. If you must do anything, tidy up what you’ve got. Roll it out without fanfare. And get on with the much more important work of building your business, aligning what you care about across everything you do. And making sure what your customers experience reflects it in every way possible.
See you next week.
Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.