Pint Size-Power House

Thursday, September 27, 2007

They’re tiny and therefore not as obvious. But they are certainly not to be overlooked. Here’s a peek into logo-power!


Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently unveiled the new Compaq logo in Shanghai. In 2002, HP acquired its rival Compaq, creating a lot of controversy both inside and outside the company, one that had even cost its CEO Carly Fiorina her job. After 5 Years HP has finally found a good use of the logo. In fact, revival and up gradation of the Compaq logo is a part of the group’s strategy to help recover its lost market share. HP is using Compaq to protect itself from competitors nipping away at the low-end market; HP is being promoted as a premium top-end brand, while Compaq would be promoted as the simple and affordable PC. This way HP is ensuring that its price-sensitive consumers don’t deflect to Dell or Toshiba.

What’s interesting is, although customers won’t see the new Compaq products for months, but from 2005 onwards the company has been working hard to make people understand the difference between the product offerings of HP & Compaq, by marketing them differently and aggressively making the two logos, visibily distinct.

Logos give a brand its identity. They are a company’s most valuable asset. It’s no secret that a whole lot of Fortune 500 companies devote millions of dollars each year to develop their brands and promote their corporate identity. In fact, logos are what instantly make a brand recognisable. They make a brand memorable. According to some, the five interlocking rings of the Olympic Games is the most recognisable logo.

Logos also have tremendous impact. In 1974, Milton Glaser produced a logo (at his Manhattan studio), which has today become the most frequently imitated logo design in human history. IYNY (I love New York) has probably changed the way people express their love! Another popular logo – FedEx – was designed by Walter Lander. Observe the logo carefully and you would spot an arrow hidden between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’. It was meant to signify speed. After shortening the name from Federal Express to Fed Ex the company suddenly started looking more trendy. Not just that they even claimed that they saved so many tins of paint and therefore dollars!

Playboy once received a letter with the distinctive ‘bunny’ logo as the only identifying mark appearing where the mailing address would normally be written. Goes to prove, that logos, many a times, become the strongest identity of a brand.

Logos to freshen up

They may look like a tiny blob put next to the brand name, but logos work hard. They represent change. A new logo is the most effective way to signal change in an organisation. A new logo is used to make a jaded company look fashionable and in sync with the times. Hindustan Motors (remember the good old Ambassador) changed its logo to look more contemporary. The new logos of Hindustan Unilever actually consist of 24 symbols put together in the shape of a “U”.

Indian Airlines wanted to be seen as a company ready to take on domestic private airlines and shed its image of a plodding public sector undertaking. It acquired new aircrafts worth Rs.9,500 crores, and a new logo made people realize that things were changing at Indian Airlines.

Competitors & competition makes organisations sit up and take charge. Banks are all about image & service. With a whole lot of multinationals setting up shop here, our desi Indian banks realised it was time they changed. A whole lot of them developed new corporate identities to look younger & trendy. A large part of the “make-over” was a change in logos. Bank of Baroda now has a new logo called the “Baroda Sun”. UTI bank has a new name & logo “AXIS Bank”. SBI has undergone an image change. Even smaller banks like Lord Krishna Bank and Catholic Syrian Bank have redesigned their logos. They don’t want to be perceived as ‘last-genera tion’s banks’ and a new logo gives a quick facelift.

Companies that have been in the business for too many years face this problem. One of the world’s greatest vehicle brands Land Rover found its corporate look did not excite the younger generation much. It changed its corporate identity and the magic began working. Shortly after, the laurelled Land Rover achieved its financial targets.

Logos need to be revisited and spruced up every 10 to 15 years, or else they become redundant and lose their relevance. Last year Kodak introduced its new logo after more than half a century. After all the last few years have seen a change in the way the world ‘clicks’ and preserves its memories. It’s a transition from film to digital imaging and to stay in sync the company sure required a new look. Back in India Bajaj Auto’s decades old logo gave way to a new corporate identity, symbolising that the company had made the transition from a scooter company to a motorcycle major. This was Bajaj’s young management’s way of saying that it was getting on the fast lane.

To change or not to change

Change is good. It symbolises evolution. Yet a lot of corporations are faced with a dilemma of whether they should change or not. When Asian Paints wanted to get a corporate makeover, they decided it was time to bid goodbye to their mascot of many years-Gattu-the cute little mischievous boy. Little did the company realise that his absence would be surely felt.

HMV instantly brings to mind the image of a dog listening faithfully to his master’s voice coming out from the gramophone. After the company saw its profit dip by 20%, it felt the time had come for a change. So it’s replaced the old dog Nipper with a new one (from the Wallace & Gromit Series) called Gromit. People love the old logo and the company is not taking chances. It says the new logo is only for a few months–its focus being on selling children’s DVDs.

NBC after all burnt its fingers when it changed its logo to a capital ‘N’, way back in the mid 70’s. ‘N’ lacked the charm of the peacock and did not go down well with the public. It was changed back to the peacock, a few years later.

Just changing is not the solution. You need to do so with caution as sometimes sudden changes upset people. Quaker Oats modified the Quaker Man on its package over a 10 year period to avoid undermining customer confidence.

Long lasting logos

You need to design your logo with caution. A good logo is one which won’t lose its charm too quickly. After all logos need to be cared for and nurtured and it takes millions of bucks to make them popular. A logo, it’s said, works on the heart of the consumer. Think Nike... its logo symbolised a whole generation. Carolyn Davidson created it in 1971 for only $35. Today’s youth swears by Google... a logo which actually was the misspelling of the word “googol”. More people in America recognised the AT&T logo (93%) than the name of their President. Come to think of it, AT&T changed its logo design almost 70 times till it finalised on the current one!

Logos are small, but they depict large images and create long lasting impressions. Think of Superman & his logo – the large ‘S’ – is probably the most lovable and most recognised logo ever created. Some logos are just everlasting, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, BMW... you never tire of seeing them and you always like them.

Logos are strong symbols that have the power to unite, not just organisations, but people too. If Wipro’s rainbow flower helps unite its diverse business, then “Om” unites all Hindus & the “Cross” unites all Christians. Logos are more than just graphic designs. They are, in fact, pint size power houses! And by now, I’m sure you agree...