Marketing

You don’t need a new logo

Michel Hogan /

I know, I know. Lots of people will tell you that you do. Big companies everywhere keep ditching the old for no good reason and putting in the new (yes, I’m looking at you Yahoo!), so why would I be saying the opposite? After all, a bright, shiny new logo must be the panacea to all that ails you. The magic reset button.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

But it’s not. It’s a bill of goods and you shouldn’t be signing up.

Sure, in some cases a new logo is warranted. But I figure if GE, Coca-Cola, Apple, IBM and too many other multi-generational organisations can get by with an occasional evolutionary update then almost any argument for a totally new logo is pretty much moot.

Let’s explore just a few of the reasons why people get caught in the new logo flytrap.

Our current logo looks dated

Trends change but really your logo shouldn’t be viewed in that context. Your logo isn’t part of a trend. It’s a point of recognition for your organisation. If you go back to the big companies I mentioned they have managed to defy trends and, through iterative changes over time, keep their logos looking current without redoing them. Yes, you can do it too.

We’ve had the same logo forever and we’re bored

Ok, so no one really says this but it is probably the most unsaid underlying reason driving many new logos. I don’t care if you are bored. Your customers aren’t bored – they are still buying from you. You don’t see Apple saying ‘gee, I’m bored, I think we’ll replace the Apple icon’. They understand that it is a tangible point of connection and they respect the role it plays in the recognition of their brand. And, while your logo might not be as iconic as the Apple, you should too.

Our logo doesn’t represent who we are anymore

If this really is true then it can be one of the genuine reasons to get a new logo. But mostly this is just a handy excuse used to justify doing it – unless you have a logo of a tractor and you don’t sell tractors anymore. As a point of recognition a logo is a container for everything you do – as you change the way people see you, your logo also changes to adopt that new experience.

Our marketing person and/or agency suggested it

Also known as marking your territory. Look behind many logos changes and as night follows day you’ll find a new marketing person or agency in place. Coincidence? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. But think about this – it is human nature to want to leave a mark, and quite literally changing a logo is a pretty visible way to do that. But that’s self-interest of those involved not best interest of your organisation – and it’s important to recognise the difference.

And here I’ll add a coda. There are really good designers out there who do great work. Who develop logos that do stand the test of time and understand that logos shouldn’t be treated like last year’s shoes. Who think about the reasons and rationale, who don’t push change for change’s sake, and through their work can add great value. If you do need a logo take the time to seek them out – they are out there.

We can use it as a way to reengage our customers

So is providing great products and services. So is developing and following through with a good communications plan. So is keeping your promises. So is being better at customer service than the other guys. So is, well you get the idea. Of all the things I can think of to engage your customers a new logo would be just about last on the list.

We’ve been acquired by another company

In this case you probably don’t have a choice. If it is a merger then things can get a bit fuzzy, but true mergers are rare and usually someone buys someone else. And in that scenario the fish getting swallowed usually also gets to swallow a new logo, name, culture and way of working.

No reason, we just want a new logo

Get over it. Focus on the other stuff in the business you need to do and have been putting off. Ok, I know that stuff is probably unsexy and hard work and nowhere near as much fun as the diversion of playing around with the bright, shiny object that is a new logo. But trust me on this, the payback in the long term will be much greater, the customer satisfaction higher, the return on investment to the organisation much better if you do.  

So when is a new logo warranted?

The one and only criteria I use is if you answer ‘yes’ to the question: is your current logo a competitive disadvantage? For the record the same goes for changing your name.

If the answer is not a clear yes, then your logo is probably a neutral (not a positive or a negative) or maybe it’s even a positive. So leave it alone. Any momentary attention you might get by changing it will be more than offset by the costs and I’m not just talking about dollars to make the change (which are always higher than estimated).

Other things are less tangible but no less costly. Distraction from other important things (see point above). Customer confusion (hang on, are these the same guys I bought from before?). Employee disenfranchisement (why are you spending all that time and money on a new logo when we have so much else that needs doing). Loss of recognition and awareness (remember the role of a logo is to be a point of recognition).

Your brand is so much more than a collection of images and type. It’s the result of everything you do and all the promises you keep.

So you (probably) don’t need a new logo. 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 – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com.

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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