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It's really not about the logo

Posted on September 16, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Every once in a while, a company’s logo will be changed and will make the headlines. It happened back in 2010 when the Gap attempted to change their beloved blue block logo, only to meet with such ferocious backlash that they changed it right back to the original less than one week later.

The same thing has happened with beleaguered JC Penney, who had changed its logo four times in the past four years. Aside from creating consumer confusion, erratic branding sends a message of internal confusion and lack of marketing confidence.

Years ago, when I had just started working as VP of Marketing for a renowned nonprofit organization, I set up a department branding meeting. I immediately got pushback, and was told they’d “just endured a huge, painful branding project” and that no one had the stomach to do more. What they’d, in fact, just gone through was a hard, protracted LOGO project that had cost significant dollars but hadn’t actually addressed the overall brand, per se. So, while everything that carried their corporate logo now looked prettier and more updated----from trucks to company letterhead---there was still branding work that needed attention. I explained that the logo was just a piece of the brand, but that brand was so much bigger----encompassing the company’s promise to its customers, and its customers’ perception of the company.

Logo is not brand.

Last week, Yahoo announced a new logo and it got significant press. Aside from a slightly cleaner font and the addition of an exclamation point, I didn’t see it as being much different from before. At the exact same time the logo was unveiled, my user interface on Yahoo mail changed completely. As a longtime customer of Yahoo email (and highly dependent since it’s my main connection to the outside world, and clients), I was dismayed to find my easy, clean and intuitive email product replaced by a mess that is non-intuitive and nearly unusable. An online search of discussion boards for “new Yahoo email sucks,” resulted in comments such as “craptastic” and “suckalicious” and “clumsy, slow, difficult and diminished.” Though I was relieved it wasn’t just me, as a customer I felt let down. I couldn’t help feeling that rather than spending the time and money on making nearly imperceptible font changes and adding a bouncing exclamation point, and revving up the PR machine to squawk about it, I would have rather they’d been more careful to deliver their end of the deal with a reliable and easy-to-use product. A cute bouncing exclamation point on the logo isn’t nearly enough to make me forget my easy-to-use email system has been taken away.

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