Out With the Old, In With the New

Out With the Old, In With the New

During our morning reading, we stumbled across a nifty little piece from Fortune magazine on major brands that have (somewhat) recently transitioned or “freshened” their well-known logos to something new and different.  As a consumer, you have probably “felt,” if not actually seen, these changes during your weekly run to the supermarket.  For a group of trademark lawyers, these rebrandings are profoundly fascinating, as it gives us a glimpse into the minds of marketers, and helps us understand how they are perceiving their own brand image as well as the public’s perception of it.

The Fortune piece does a great job on its own of explaining the background and rationale behind the changes to these logos, and we won’t spend time rehashing the article here.  Instead, we thought we’d discuss a couple of the design changes that we particularly like, and a couple that we think went absolutely wrong.  Before we get there, the point in all of this (besides the obvious – which is that we trademark lawyers all started off following along with Bill Cosby in Picture Pages) is that rebranding of any kind is a huge decision for a company to make.  In all of these examples, the primary mark or “house brand” has been significantly altered such that the consumer has to re-learn the company anew.  These decisions can be bet-the-company propositions, as at least some of the existing goodwill a company has built up under its outgoing mark will inevitably be lost once the new mark comes on board.  The less-than-savvy consumer who has not been properly bombarded with the rebrand-supporting advertising blitz is likely to ask, “What is this?” However, this is often the point, as one of the primary reasons for this kind of drastic rebranding is to help wipe away some negative perception of the company and better ingratiate the brand with its (sometimes new) target audience.  As you will see, some companies pull this off better than others.

The Good:

BP (British Petroleum) – Probably our favorite logo refresh of the last few years, this one has been around awhile, having been rolled out in 2000, according to the BP website.  Here are the logos, side by side:


  (1989-2000)               (2000-current)

To us, the old design screams “big oil,” with its stoic appearance, brandishing a shield.  The new logo is softer and more friendly, swapping the upper-case serif typeface for a lower-case sans serif design, simultaneously evoking a shift to solar energy as well as other renewable sources of fuel, including biofuels (do you see the sunflower?).  In this respect, the designer’s use of BP’s existing colors, green and yellow, in a manner that ties in to the movement of the moment – “green” – is particularly well executed. 

Apple – Another one of our favorites, Apple Computer’s logo refresh seems to have been executed just as naturally and smoothly as the explosion of the Internet... you almost didn’t notice it happening.  Here are the logos, side by side, courtesy of Edible Apple:


   (1976-1998)                   (1998-current)

This one doesn’t look as dramatic as the BP example, in part because we’ve left out the original Apple logo (see the Edible Apple link, above) which looks like something out of Albrecht Dürer’s catalog of woodcuts.  However, the change made by Apple is no less significant in its message than BP’s.  The old logo, with its rainbow colors communicates that Apple is “all things to all people,” that it is cheery and friendly.  To us, it also screams “early 80s” (Care Bears, anyone?), and in this respect, the refresh was way overdue.  The new design, however, represents a paradigm shift for the company.  Apple’s computers were always on the “micro” side, but with the redesigned logo came a focus on minimalist products – simple, clean designs, high on function, low on additional messy components and add-on parts.  The silvery, 3-D look of the new logo is also extremely modern and futuristic (T-1000, anyone?).  The brand theme has recently been carried over to its products, as many of Apple’s laptops are now manufactured from one solid piece of aluminum.  The result?  Apple is no longer trying to be “all things to all people.”  Instead, Apple is trendy.  Hip.  Now.  Cool.  And because of this, everyone wants a Mac.

The Bad:

Pepsi – We’ve already talked about some of the good ones.  Let’s move to the ones that have left us scratching our heads, starting with Pepsi’s new redesign.  Again, here are the logos, side by side:


              (old)                                        (new)

The old Pepsi design is, dare we say, iconic.  It is simple.  It has symmetry.  It has a yin-yang quality to it.  It is well known across the globe.  Over the years, Pepsi has used it with the PEPSI name in it, and then without, but the design has remained the same.  Until now.  We have to admit, the first time we saw this on a store shelf, we were in a local Target, and we thought it was the Target generic brand.  Seriously.  The new logo looks smeared, like the printing plate in the silk screen department slipped… or skewed, like a counterfeiter was using a lower-than-usual quality printing process… or melted, like it got sideways with the Ark in that Indiana Jones movie.  In contrast to the BP logo, and despite the fact that the logo is the same general shape and uses the same general colors, it is really difficult to tell that this is a Pepsi logo…even when you see it on a bottle of Pepsi cola.  

Tropicana – This redesign is not so much a logo redesign but rather a trade dress redesign.  Trade dress, for the uninitiated, is the “total look and feel” of a product.  In the case at hand, the trade dress merely refers to the product packaging for orange juice, i.e., the cardboard carton.  Side by side, you now know the drill (this is the only one I had to borrow directly from CNN.com, since their version showed the product the best, so… thank you CNN):

                  (old)                                    (new)

A bit befuddled?  We are too.  On the left is the good-old, No Pulp Pure Premium that we drink by the gallon (no matter the cost!).  The prominent visual is an orange with a straw sticking out of it, suggesting that drinking a glass of Tropicana is exactly like sucking the juice right out of a fresh orange (despite the fact that Tropicana is pasteurized, and oranges are not).  On the right is… er… a really generic looking white carton.  The prominent (?) visual is an oversized glass of juice that you can only see when the carton is turned on an angle (note, this is NOT how the product is displayed on the shelf).  When viewed from the front, you cannot even discern the glass.  When we first saw this in the store, our first reaction was, “What?  They got rid of Tropicana?” (yes, even though we can read).  At least according to this website, we weren’t the only ones who had this reaction, as sales of Tropicana Pure Premium following the redesign are down an estimated 20%.  See?  We’re really not making this up…

The Ugly:

Kraft (Kraft Foods) – We have to admit, we had no idea that Kraft had changed its logo until reading the Fortune magazine piece.  We’ve even been grocery shopping recently (and with little kids in the house, we eat the heck out of their Mac N’ Cheese) and we didn’t catch it.  Probably a good thing.  Here’s the comparo, last time:


                        (old)                                                                               (new)

Again, like the Pepsi case, the old Kraft logo is iconic.  It is the definition of a “brand” when one uses the word “brand” as a verb.  Three colors – red, white and blue.  Strong, bold, eye catching.  The new one is, umm, upset that someone spilled something on it.  The *splurt* or whatever that thing is on the left is downright nonsensical.  What is it meant to evoke, besides the ire of corporate accounting when this new eight-color print job is applied across all the new marketing materials?  Plus, all the letters are in lowercase now, and instead of shouting, “KRAFT!!” this logo seems to whimper.  As we understand it, the logo on the right is now the “corporate” logo, designed specifically for corporate messaging, and will not replace the more familiar logo on products like cheese, (and Mac N’ Cheese…*whew*, we thought we were getting senile there for a minute!).  However, when you actually launch a product site from the Kraft corporate site, the corporate message still hangs there in the frame, which is a bit unsettling.  But one is really left to wonder as to the rationale behind the change.  Were the additional colors intended to discourage counterfeiting?  If that’s the case, why not put it on product?  And if “Kraft Foods” is merely corporate, and “Kraft” is on product, does that mean that things that are branded only with “Kraft” are not food?  Yikes… not the questions they wanted us to be asking.


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