I had the opportunity to explain to my 8-year-old what a logo is. She asked because every time we watched her favorite video, she said the symbol in the beginning frightened her. It’s not the reaction I was expecting, but upon further inspection, it did seem a little creepy to me. So I asked her how other logos made her feel. The answer was happy (her favorite cereal), excited (a local theme park) and sad (a charity for sick children.)
As adults, our emotional relationship with logos is equally as profound. In fact, it is perhaps the most vital piece of branding there is. Because for all the talk of social media success and sexy Super Bowl spots, you are your logo.
Still, brands feel the need to refresh their image often, and a new logo treatment is often in the mix. Let’s take Wendy’s new logo, for example. The burger chain has taken great pains to create a wholesome, throwback feel for its first new logo since 1983. After all, it has to contend with the mother of all logos, the Golden Arches. Speaking of mothers, a recent Adweek article claims that the brand went as far as to subliminally put the word “mom” on Wendy’s collar. Whether it was intentional or not, stirring up feelings of mom and her home cooking surely seems like a good thing for a brand looking to spotlight its authenticity.
A decidedly less wholesome food chain also refurbished its logo after 30 years. Hooters has opted to ditch its owl’s feathered look in favor of a more streamlined version of its icon, “Hootie.” According to USA Today, the chain has been suffering because other “breastaurants” have created better food and environments. The logo change is meant to be a proof point that it has upgraded its experience as part of a broader push to bring customers back.
There have also been many major logo revisions in other categories of late, notably technology. The tech field has its share of hugely influential logos. Let’s take Google, for example. Google, which is already synonymous with search, has elevated its brand to mean something even more significant: innovation. That’s why its decision to attach itself to its Motorola Mobilitydivision is significant. The halo this move provides is clearly meant to make people feel the same way about Google’s hardware division. It has already created a buzz for the brand, and expectations have been raised.
Firefox, meanwhile, is looking to gain some momentum for the launch of Firefox 23 beta, so it refreshed its logo last month. While it’s not a radical departure, it is a reflection of how quickly things have changed since Firefox’s last logo launch in 2009. The goal of the design was to make it friendlier across mobile and other devices by reducing the level of detail. All told, it still reinforces the brand’s dedication to speed. And in my daughter’s words, “It’s cute.”
Still, strong logo refreshes can come from any category; gyro client Quaker Chemical has seen great results from its new visual identity. We took its decades-old “Q” and refreshed it in a manner designed to align with its new positioning of “It’s what’s inside that counts.” This provider of machine lubricants has a long history of customer excellence. It was important to point out that it’s not only what’s inside the product that counts but also what’s inside the company. The icon, which looks like a machine part itself, illustrates this belief by placing the yellow “Q” firmly inside the blue, because after all, it’s what inside that counts. The branding and logo itself has resonated on a profound emotional level.
Furthermore, an even stronger way to make a logo more impactful is using animation. gyro’s video talent Stanley Hsu created an animated Quaker Chemical logo and added another emotional layer to the static version by using motion and sound design. The animated logo not only tells the story of machinery and lubricant by the sound but also shows the relationship between the symbols by their motion. This helps a brand to make an impression. It requires an understanding of the meaning behind a logo and design skills in order to reinforce the ideas effectively. It’s no doubt that animated logos will continue to play an important part in branding with the rise of video in the coming years.
That brings me back to the importance of a logo on all levels across all industries. For a brand, it’s like a tattoo: You’d better love it (and more important, your customers better love it), because it’s not easy to change.
Kenneth Hein is the global marketing director at gyro.
Follow him @kennethhein