Monday, October 24, 2011

Loco with Logo changes- or is about being fresh?

by Karl Biunno

A couple of years ago, I graduated from Bob's Brand Management boot-camp. Since that time, my love for the topic has continued to grow, so when Bob asked me to contribute to his blog about a year ago, I decided to describe my shock at how a well established brand like Pepsi could so "cavalierly" change their logo - and consequently their identity. My first reaction, was to write how short-sighted the brand managers of these companies must have been when conceiving their first logo. Logo changes can be expensive in terms of time and money- and jeopardizing the brand awareness that the logos create for the brand (especially a packaged good brand) may come with a risk to sales. In my initial writing, I found myself criticizing their lack of forecasting abilities, as in my view; they failed to create a logo that would be able to timelessly represent the values of their customers. But the deeper I thought about that, my views got refined and a new perspective emerged. Today I will share my insight and will try to explain some of
the underlining principles behind logo change. This is a short post which is really about this: “Which brands are most frequently updating their logos- and why?”

Perspective 1: Which brands are updating their logos most frequently
When looking at brands that are frequent logo updaters, there is a clear trend. It's the non-leader in the market who tend to tinker with their brand logo most. Here's example number one coming from the top 2 brands in the athletic footwear industry, namely Nike and Adidas. According to Sporting Good Intelligence, in 2008, Nike’s worldwide market share is 36 percent compared to Adidas 21.8 percent share. In other words, Nike is the leader/dominant brand (by market share) and Adidas is the non-leader/non-dominant brand. Since its existence, the core of Nike’s logo has always been the same – the famous “swoosh”.

As you can see below, the same cannot be said about the Adidas logo.

(Interesting enough, as a side note, although Adidas’ website clearly showcases their latest logo on their front page, each previous logo is still used on products within their various divisions in the business.)

Let's go to the credit/debit card industry.

In both credit and debit cards, Visa overtakes MasterCard in terms of circulation.

Guess which one has changed their logo more frequently with more changes? You guessed it – MasterCard. The visuals speak for themselves.

Trying doing some searches on this yourself. The results are pretty consistent. The dominant brand is less prone to changing what works. The evidence is there from Toyota to Chrysler, and McDonald's to Burger King. (Google is the exception to this rule.)

Perspective 2: The Fresh Brand Value

Now move on to the more interesting question of “why?” I'll look at one specific example here.

To help us answer this question, let’s focus on Pepsi and their various changes in their logo over the years compared to Coca-Cola.

If we travel back in time at the height of the cola wars in the mid 1980’s, Pepsi poured in substantial amounts of money in order to steal market share from Coca-Cola by building
a brand that could relate to the youth of the time. With prominent product placements in hit movies such as Back to the Future or the unforgettable Pepsi celebrity endorsement by Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Bad and Black and White, “the choice of a new generation” campaign was at the upper end of what the Pepsi could have hoped for. The positioning, reinforced by the slogan was so significant that it ultimately set the tone for Pepsi’s image and consequently values up until this day – a brand that is synonymous with fresh, lively and young at heart. Youth is cool. Pepsi is cool. Cool is ever changing. Pepsi is ever-changing.

Ultimately, if you are a brand that proclaims to be the choice of a new generation, it is important for all aspects of your marketing campaign to be consistent and suit every new generation. So, for Pepsi, I'm making the case that the logo update keeps the brand fresh and appealing to youth. In other words, the strategic reason why some companies decide to change their logo, is that it enables them to attack or defend their desired or current position within the market place by depicting the companies rejuvenation of their core values.


  1. I remember the outcry when the Gap announced it was doing its logo change.

  2. There seems to be a trend with companies just changing their font: eg. WalMart, xerox

  3. I think its that if it ain't broke, don't fix it...that helps to explain why the dominants keep consistent....then again maybe they are leaders because they are more consistent. It's a good question to blog about!

  4. what about starbucks?

  5. Interesting point to bring up: Starbucks recent logo change. As the post states, the logo most likely to change is that of the non-leader in the market. In the coffee retail industry, the leader is actually McDonald's with global coffee revenues reaching $36.9 billion. Starbucks is quite behind with global coffee revenues of 10.7 billion. (2009 Datamonitor reports on McDonald's and Starbucks) So if we follow the logic of the post, Starbukcs' logo change was to be expected. Here is a fun link illustrating Starbucks logo change over the years...

  6. As a graphic designer, I can tell you that it's quite difficult to generate a "timeless" look because general design trends change a little bit like fashion trends do. The particular preferences for fonts, designs, and colour choices change from generation to generation in terms of "what's in" and "what's out."

    Some of the most "successful" logos are the ones that are designed to be customizable (often, in colour, for example). Not only do these allow flexibility from a design point of view, but these changes are actually a form of "content generation" for fans to consume.

    Considering brands like Air Jordan, part of the appeal (built into the image) is that novelty that makes you wonder, "what will they come out with next?" This variation makes you pay more attention and the "just noticeable difference" gives your brand a spark of "real" atention and engagement in a marketplace full of clutter and bombardment.

  7. Which is better Pepsi or Coke?
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