Graphic Designers Love a ‘Logo-Ectomy’
I am absolutely convinced that some people believe a logo can be changed on a whim! I was reading another blog recently and came across some interesting comments about my company, BNI. The graphic designer said on her blog (referring to BNI), “…the organization is wonderful, they do great work, but their logo is SO ’80s… really needs to be punched up and brought into the new world!”Of course, since the company started in 1985, she made an assumption that the logo was done in the ’80s. It wasn’t. It was designed in the mid ’90s, with a minor revision around 2002 [and a major revision to the “overall” branded look again in 2011 by an international graphic design company]. Her comments really got me thinking about some other major brands and their logos, some of which haven’t changed very much or at all for almost 100 years!
Take a look at some of these logos: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Disney and IBM. These babies haven’t changed for many, many, years. Talk about “so ’80s“…what about ’60s? Anybody for ’50s, ’40s… or turn of the century.
You see, the secret to branding is not about being pretty, sexy or modern; it’s about credibility and identity. Within my company, BNI, we have been building a brand for more than two decades. When I started the company in the early ’80s, we had an entirely different logo. I made changes every couple of years until I learned about the need to be consistent, to establish a brand and leave the logo alone!
We adopted what we use now in the mid-’90s with that minor revision in 2002 and a major revision in 2011. It is currently a registered trademark in almost three dozen countries! To change the logo and branded look “again” would be a major undertaking, not to mention a great way to dilute my brand recognition in all those countries. That is exactly what you do when you mess with your logo…Coca-Cola knows this, McDonald’s knows this, IBM and Disney know this. Changing a logo for an international company is not just changing brochures and signs. It involves major trademark issues with international repercussions. Most graphic designers don’t fully understand what a monumental undertaking it is to change or alter trademarks globally. It is very, very complex, time consuming and expensive.
You see, there is a difference between being up-to-date with your marketing materials and changing your main identity in the marketplace. Most people have their own opinions about what looks good and what doesn’t look good. All I know is that when people see a company’s logo, they are going to immediately identify with that company. That is the goal of branding with a logo. I’m not talking about an unprofessional logo; there are some logos that NEED to be changed for many reasons. But when you are talking about a company with a logo that has worked in dozens of countries around the world–well, the logo might not be a real problem. Making changes just to “update” the look is not good business unless there is an important reason to let people know that it is a new and improved company–new management, new focus or new mission. Barring that, it’s a bad idea, and experienced graphic designers (especially those with global brands as a client) know that.
Oh, sorry, I’ve got to take a call…a web designer thinks I need to revise this website!
All brands, product names, company names, trademarks and service marks are the properties of their respective owners.
16 thoughts on “Graphic Designers Love a ‘Logo-Ectomy’”
Ivan, I thought your point was well made… I wonder if the graphic designer, who made the remark, also believes that word-of-mouth is an outdated concept? My theory is that they’re making a rather shallow and transparent attempt to coerce BNI to hire them for a logo redesign! Clearly their time would be better spent if they focused on developing their business networking skills. With highest regard, Wayne Gomillion
Dr. Misner, in response to your position I say YES! As a person who has been advising clients on advertising and marketing issues for fifteen years, I agree completely with the points you’ve made. As the saying goes, “repetition equals reputation.” Simply put: Pick a good logo and stick with it. I think Lori Moore made a good point about changing colors-but I would say not to do that except for a “special occasion” where it really made sense, such as using red or green for a Christmas card or some other seasonal or special event application. Otherwise I think BNI’s color (the exact PMS color!) should be as important to BNI as IBM’s choice of blue is to them. Ever heard IBM referred to as “big blue?”–another example of great branding! Best regards to all, Lynn
A recent Wall Street Journal article on franchising named BNI as one of the Top 25 Franchise Organisations. and yes, we managed that with the same logo for over 20 years. If it ain’t broke, dont fix it.
Thank you- your comments hit the mark
Niri S Patel
In business, it is critical to be recognizable. One way to update without interfering with the logo is to utilize different colors from year to year without altering the logo itself.
Businesses also need to choose their logos carefully as they should have something they will live with for years.
My first business enjoyed tremendous success thanks to the branding another BNI member created for me. The branding was so effective that often people would say that yes, they had heard of me after receiving my business card with the business brand.
Wayne, here’s the rest of the story that I didn’t tell on the blog. At the end of HER blog, she said words to the affect that she was going to find a connection to get into BNI HQ to show us new logos. I CAN’T WAIT for that call!!!
for me a Logo is a symbol for values people connect with a logo. Sometimes if you here an old song you remember the good experience you have had. Perhaps the first kiss in a car with this song played in the radio. When you hear 20 years later a remix of the song you can’t have a first kiss …
I think if you change a logo you take value and trust away. A logo can mean trust, quality, frienship, business. A change of the logo means the change of the values and a loss of the identity. So, I agree.
Dear Dr. Misner,
I am so glad you ran with this issue. No doubt the BNI logo will never mean more to anyone else than it does to you. In some way it is a reflection of who you are and the vision you had for your company.
It paid good money to a excellent graphic designer to develop my company logo. I gave him the generalities, but he polished the details. Not a day passes that I don’t hear favorable comments about it. And you know what; I am proud of it. It reminds me every time I look at it that I am seriously in business.
Some people will not correct someone when they mispronounce or mispell their name. Betcha those same people use yahoo, hotmail, comcast, gmail, etc. for their company email address.
Thanks for all you do Dr. Misner.
I must say that I agree with you on this point. The BNI logo is our identity as a company, which many people are a member of. They are a member because they believe in the values and mission of BNI and changing the logo will do nothing to enhance that.
It it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There is nothing per se with changing a logo if it’s only a minor modification. However, nowadays when there are millions of companies with millions of logos, average customer simply cannot differentiate a business based on a logo. Sure there are companies like Coca Cola, HSBC, Apple, etc that do have that brand recognition, but they have spent years advertising and builting it.
An average business needs to concentrate in building long term relationships with its customers instead of endlessly tweaking its logo. Note that I’m assuming your logo is appropriate and is not embarrassing unlike the London 2012 Olympics logo. Now that needs some serious designer work.
Without meaning to sound sexist, but changing a company’s logo is not like changing a dress or a suit.
A few year’s back, I was involved with a major Bank (Westpac) whch was forced to adopt a brand new logo as it was formed out of the merger with another large bank.
What a major exercise, and cost item, that turned out to be. Mainly because a logo is designed to last many decades. It’s a priceless asset that companies like Shell, IBM, MacDonald’s all acknowledge.
If graphic designers had their way, logos would be changed everytime the season changed! Happy Springtime BNI!
I would agree that a logo should not just be changed on a whim or to keep up with the latest fashion. It should be the cornerstone of a companies brand, but at the same time, it can reflect the progressiveness of any company.
Here are a few examples of major companies who have (for the most part) successfully adjusted their logos over time to be more modern and current. http://www.instantshift.com/2009/01/29/20-corporate-brand-logo-evolution/
Specifically, Apple, Ford, MasterCard, Google, IBM, & BMW have done a nice job of tweaking their logo to give them a fresh, but not totally different look.
A logo can be enhanced and updated without making it a total redesign of the companies brand.
Jay, I agree that minor tweaking is of value to a brand. As I mentioned in the article, the BNI logo was revised to fit a specific need around 2002.
The recent branding additions of using the global map with different areas highlighted for the specific territories of a specific region was a nice upgrade to the company image as well.
A logo is part of an overall identity and identity is only part of your brand. I do feel that BNI identity is strong, but somewhat agree with the comment. The 80s look she is referring has to do with the humanist style of BNI. Today, there is a strong trend back to the grotesque font style of Helvetica, which is a style that has withstood the test of time very well.
That said, the cost benefit of redesigning your logo is definitely not there. That’s my 2 cents as a branding designer and a little nerdy font info for ya!
Over the two-decades-plus that I’ve been a designer, many businesses have come to me asking for a logo. And a while back it dawned on me that they may have been asking for a logo, but what they REALLY needed was a Brand. The Brand is the big picture, of which the logo is only a part. There are some beautiful logo classics out there, such as those you mentioned in your article. These have been nurtured and occasionally adjusted in very subtle ways over the years. I love the evolution of the Apple logo, which I often reference to my clients as a classic example. If the design of a logo is timeless enough, it WILL withstand the decades, or maybe even centuries. I totally agree that businesses should take a very careful look at the repercussions of changing their logo and not take such a step lightly!
Jan – Finally, a graphic designer that understands!!!