When to change your logo. Or not

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Have you spotted the change to the Countdown logo? This update got me thinking about the reasons for a new look, the whys and the why nots.

In our personal lives, it’s our choice alone in terms of keeping up with the trends or sticking with how we feel comfortable looking. In business, there can be much at stake if others look more appealing.

Brands often change their logo incrementally over time. Google ‘Shell logo history’ for a familiar example. What started as a hand-drawn scallop shell was adapted 10 times during the 1900s. But today, with potential for your logo to be on dozens of different applications, it’s a big call.

Which is why I’m surprised at Countdown’s small evolution, a subtle change to a lighter typeface. I can see that it is a smarter, more contemporary font, but I feel it is not a change that generates a more positive feeling about them as a brand. More ‘meh’ than ‘wow’.

I’m trying to find out their reasons for change, and I’ll share when I do, but there are a number of reasons why a business may decide to update its logo.

One reason, or opportunity, that gets overlooked is making a change to reflect your brand’s personality more accurately. It’s fair to say that most businesses, when they first set up, focus on the practicalities and logistics, as they should. The look and feel of the organisation may not get as much thought, certainly in terms of future-proofing. It may not be a financial priority at the time, especially if you’re faced with investment in stock or equipment. That’s understandable.

It’s easy to see where logos have developed from a straightforward desire to articulate what a business does, rather than how it does it, or why, or with what spirit or personality. That may be fine when you are the only one offering that service. Imagine the days of early settlement, anywhere in the world, where a small town has one butcher, one plumber, one lawyer. Then the town grows and there’s room for another butcher, plumber and lawyer.

You may see companies update their look in response to increased competition. Yes, you can choose to stay true to your logo and the way you present your business, loyal to what has worked for you up until now, even if the new competition flatters you with a copy-cat design. But if their look is resonating more effectively with the customers you’re competing for, time for a rethink.

Sometimes a logo update can be driven by practical needs. It may have been developed before we needed to be so digital-friendly. We have always made sure a logo is practical for printing and maybe for embroidering on uniforms. Now, this practical future-proofing of our logos factors in a range of digital options, like Facebook profiles or even the tiny app icon.

I’ve come across examples recently of companies looking to update their logo because their offer has changed. When they started out in business, they did ABC but now they do XYZ too. Often this shift can lead to a name change, or update to the logo’s strapline at least, which creates an opportunity for a refresh and a new sense of vitality to support the company’s new phase.

Sometimes, a company may be an unwitting victim of poor creative advice. Not all colour choices are wise. Not all symbols or icons are well thought out. And, oh my, the dodgy fonts. It isn’t only about choosing a capable graphic designer to make your chosen name look good, it’s about working with them to create something to help your whole business connect with the head and heart of the people you need to connect with.

But when not to change? Never change to reflect a visual trend unless you are prepared for the likelihood of another change if that trend doesn’t endure. Unless, of course, the trend genuinely better reflects your business brand.

Never use a logo update alone to deflect attention from a stuff-up. Your logo might be able to make you look better as an organisation, but you have to do a lot more than that to fix a damaged reputation. Your customers aren’t that naïve.

Whatever initiates consideration of a change beware of the consequences and proceed with caution, never without clear thought and strategy.

If you and your staff are proud to hand over business card or stand by your display banner at an event without grimacing because it doesn’t match the story they are telling, you’re probably still on safe ground.

If your logo genuinely reflects your organisation, it’s like they say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if it’s making a few rattling noises, it’s probably time for a tune up.

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz