Recently I was stuck at a LONG stoplight behind a delivery vehicle for a local company. As I waited, it occurred to me — the name was familiar, but the logo wasn’t. In fact, the colors, branding, design — nothing was familiar. I thought some more (did I mention it was a LONG light?) and remembered that it had only been a couple of years earlier that the company had last changed their visual branding. And I don’t think the company is more than a decade old.
Why change your logo so quickly? Usually it’s because YOU get tired of it. You’re the one who sees your logo and brand marks every day on dozens of internal and external documents. But your customers? They only see it when they interact with you, which may be weekly, or monthly. And your prospects? They see it even less frequently.
In January, I traveled overseas, which of course required a couple of trips through airports. When I left on January 15, the American Airlines counters were decorated with the familiar AA – eagle logo. But when I returned on January 22, I was shocked to see the new American Airlines logo as I walked through the Dallas airport. The counter was unmanned, so I just stopped and stared for 45 seconds (annoying my travel-weary wife in the process, who was hunting either food or a restroom after our transcontinental expedition).
Yes, I’ll admit to being a bit of a logo junkie. But I thought American and their agency FutureBrand did a marvelous job with the redesign, and that it came at an appropriate time, sending an appropriate message for a company emerging from bankruptcy. I wasn’t all that surprised, though, to hear a good deal of negative feedback soon after. Some of it came from the design community, and some was little more than simply complaining that Massimo Vignelli’s classic 1967 mark was being desecrated, along with the silver planes and Helvetica type.
But what struck me about this re-branding were three things: First, this was the first time in more than 40 years the logo had been changed. Second, the brand had a different message to tell, as it emerged from bankruptcy. (Yes, you can argue that spending a tidy sum on a rebrand might not be the best use of scarce dollars, but that’s another topic for another day.)
Third, and perhaps most interestingly, was a point made in a Forbes article about the rebrand: many of the new planes American Airlines has on order will be made of composite materials instead of aluminum. So, these planes would have to be painted a color instead of using raw, polished aluminum, necessitating a re-think of the entire brand.
That’s as good a reason as any as I can think of to consider a re-branding: don’t change your brand because you’re bored. Instead, be sure you have a good reason.