Logo Evolution: How and Why Brands Switch Things Up
Written By: Kabita Das, Art Director
Why do companies change their branding? A company’s logo and branding are important for recognition and memorability, so why would a company compromise that for a new brand look and feel?
Well, the short answer is that it depends. The slightly longer answer is that it can depend on a few different things, like a shift in the company’s needs, how they have evolved, or societal and/or cultural shifts.
Consumers, on the other hand, often reveal their attachment to certain logos, especially ones that have been around for a while, when brands revamp, sparking Twitter debates and agency-wide polls as to which logo is superior. Other times, fresh logos are seen and appreciated or fly under the radar if the changes are minimal.
Take Apple, for example: A brand that has repeatedly rebranded themselves over the years with logo and design changes that have either been appreciated or gone unnoticed (for the most part). Apple is the gold standard for why a brand might want to evolve their logo over the years: to stay modern and relevant to design trends. However, by not changing the outline of the apple shape, the brand has been able to maintain its highly recognizable logo over the years.
Some brands, however, have evolved their logo in response to cultural shifts. For example, Pearl Milling Company, formerly known as Aunt Jemima, recently invested in a total rebrand. The brand has an unfortunate history of using their original mascot, Aunt Jemima, to display stereotypes of black female servitude. Following the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, Quaker Oats, the brand’s parent company, announced the decision to make some long overdue changes.
Pearl Milling Company is one of many companies that have addressed insensitivities in their branding in recent years, others including the Cleveland Indians, Uncle Ben’s, and Land O’ Lakes. How genuine these decisions are can be debated, but nonetheless, they represent significant cultural shifts, and consumers setting higher expectations for the brands they purchase from.
Companies may also simply adjust and tweak their logos, changes that, from a brand recognition standpoint, don’t change much, but from a design standpoint, make all the difference. Dropbox, for example, kept their logo as the iconic blue box, but adjusted the graphic to be cleaner, and more abstract. It still reads as a box but is visually far more interesting.
Aside from the importance of showcasing a brand’s evolution or reflecting societal shifts, the branding process is one that we take very seriously. A bad redesign has the potential to result in real consequences.
Weight Watchers, for example, attempted to rebrand with a new logo and messaging geared toward health and wellness rather than just weight loss. However, this seemingly positive change had a lot of backlash, and resulted in a 34% drop in stocks after bad Q4 reports. The below tweet encapsulates the primary piece of feedback Weight Watchers received from consumers:
There are also plenty of examples of companies that have made branding choices that, while there was no clear monetary consequence, were simply unpopular. For example, when Smucker’s modernized their logo from the old-fashioned strawberry illustrations to abstract, fruit-reminiscent shapes, and switched out the slab serif font for a clean sans serif, Twitter lost its mind.
Another culprit of unpopular rebrands is Tropicana, which has since been given the title of the “worst rebrand in history.” It took less than a month for the rebrand to be recalled after sales decreased by $20 million.
As consequential as some of these rebrands have been, us advertising folk still find them to be encouraging. They show that consumers really do care about how a product is designed and packaged. If someone feels strongly enough to type up a heated tweet about the questionable kearning on a weightwatchers logo, then they’ll also likely appreciate the good rebrands, too.