Between wind and water with BowStern

Evolving Brands

Publish Date: 11/01/2016

When Philip Morris became Altria, that was a rebranding exercise on the fullest scale. A new name, a new mark, a new communications philosophy. Whatever you think of the success of that rebrand, it was a bold and expensive move.

Expensive is the word that most often comes to the mind of clients when we mention rebranding. Of course, there is the time and effort to come up with the new brand, but they are also thinking far ahead to the costs of new stationery, shirts, or vehicles in their fleet. Rebranding is not to be undertaken lightly.

Sometimes there is a specific problem with the current brand that can be solved without rebranding. The company might have an excellent reputation, good market share, high profit margins - but if they are talking to us about marketing they have a pain point. Our solutions may involve comprehensive or niche marketing, but they almost always rely on the basic tenets which would include a good logo. And here's where we run into difficulty. Just because a logo exists, that doesn't mean it is inherently good.

Many clients we encounter bring with them parameters for us to work in. These might include specific sales goals, audiences, or budgets. They almost always include a statement to the effect of "don't change our brand". And yet within that limitation, there is room to achieve better results with a logo evolution.

Google Ford Motor Company logos and you'll understand. Ford has never changed their brand, say from blue to red, and yet over their history they have had at least 8 different logos. Once the core idea was established in 1912, the subsequent changes have simply been evolutions.

An evolution can be extremely subtle, or not so. We usually explain it this way to our clients: if you described the old and new logos with only words, the new logo would both share all or most of the description of the old logo. In other words, you might need to look really closely to tell the difference. And yet, even if the changes are minimal, we will introduce better typography, more spatial awareness, and new and comprehensive rules for use that will result in a tightening of your brand. Think of it this way: we might not make you change your outfit, but we'll press your clothes, tuck in your shirt and generally make you look like you didn't just roll out of bed.

"Is it worth it?", you ask. Obviously, we think so. But our clients do too. A major advantage of this approach is that, done properly, it doesn't need to be expensive. Often, we design the new logo knowing that it cannot replace the old one in a bright flash of magic brand launch. Instead, it is gently released into the pond, where it swims largely unnoticed, but slowly and surely consumes the old logos through natural attrition. Got 3 reams of old stationery? Use them up. Don't worry about the new logo until you run out.

Here are a few of our recent logo evolutions.

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