Good, Consistent Branding: Keep the Corvette
As you know by now, I’m a stickler for consistency. Unfortunately, consistency is hard when design fads and trends fire up each year like dazzling lights on a Christmas tree. These trends can scream at you, ‘Buy me! Buy me!” just like new cars or kitchen appliances.
But tell me this: In a branding situation, do you need the latest Tesla, or should you skip the work and money and hassle of buying a new car and appreciate your classic corvette?
The answer is: The corvette. And I’ll tell you why.
IDENTITY VS. ESSENCE
Let’s say your child only recognized you by your car. You’re the same beautiful wonderful mom or dad you’ve always been, but imagine you’re coming to pick up your kid from school in your brand new Ferrari and, alas, all of a sudden, your kid doesn’t recognize who you are. Sure, you’re the same trustworthy, reliable, loving parental figure you’ve always been, but all of a sudden your kid is staring at you through the tinted window, incredibly confused and concerned.
(Then, when they get in the car, it’s worse if they recognize you, but have to ask why you got a red Ferrari when you’re eco-friendly and have been advocating Subarus for ten years. Oh, and you also hate the color red.)
Same goes for branding. Your business may be incredibly well established - but if you decide your logo needs to change every two years to “keep up with the times,” no one’s going to recognize you unless your business name is splattered across the logo in bold font. That’s ugly, first of all - second of all, your logo can never stand alone again and be instantly recognizable by its imagery only, as a logo should.
As well as that, there’s the great chance that all of a sudden your new cool “legit” branding may look great, but completely go against every single thing you’ve emphasized as a company since its conception.
And thus, I emphasize the creation of good, classic, timeless branding for my clients. And by branding here, I don’t mean just a logo - I mean your logo, your colors, your voice, your values, all of which display your brand’s essence.
And by classic and timeless, I don’t mean old and outdated. Let’s take Starbucks, for example…
Starbucks has changed their logo a few times now, but over the period of almost 50 years. You can see there’s been a minimum of five years between their logo changes (seems they maybe had a fluke in 1987) - and the smallest gap besides that, 16 years. That’s a long time, and still, the logo is recognizable.
If you put the imagery from the 1971 logo next to the 2011 logo, people would still get it.
Yes, logos are trending toward clean lines and minimalism, and I’m all for that. It’s pretty, and easier to register in a world that is now filled with marketing material, in both the physical and digital worlds. But the Starbucks logo is still incredibly unique and true to its original character.
Now let’s examine a bad example…
BLACK & DECKER
If you’re in the design field at all, I’m sure you’ve heard about this controversial redesign. The Black & Decker logo was updated in 2014 to be more minimal and modern, perhaps more with the times of slimmer logos. But for this reason, it became less recognizable, kind of boring, and plain old “pretty” instead of bold. When we think of tools, we think of reliability, strength, and creation. The new logo is lacking all three, with a slim font, generic shape instead of the classic Black & Decker nut, and lazy unvaried linework.
So sure, the logo looks nice, but the brand itself lost a ton when its voice was stripped so suddenly. At least they kept the colors…
I’m sure there was a way to update their logo, without changing it entirely, and losing the brand’s trusted stance in the tools department while it migrated to household appliances.
BACK TO BRANDING
Again, as a designer, I am dedicated to classic, identifiable branding. Yes, you can update your logo, your feel, your verbiage, as long as it doesn’t:
- Make you unrecognizable,
- Completely disregard any reputation you’ve created for your business thus far,
- Need to be updated in two years because the trend of slim, round-capped lines changed to bubble fonts (which hopefully will never, ever happen).
If you’re merging, or completely rehauling your business endeavor, then go ahead and redo your branding. It doesn’t make sense to slap the exact same label on a computer company that now wants to sell and service solar panel farms.
To reiterate, for your convenience:
Your branding should represent you - not the trends of the time, or mimic competitors in your field (how can you set yourself apart to someone who doesn’t know you, if you look the same?)
Updates are fine, as long as they send the same message, and are done infrequently enough so they can settle in with your consumer base.
Stay true to your message. Don’t pull a 180 on how you look because you saw someone else’s logo and think it’s nice. You’ll end up only dampening your reputation as a brand, and confusing your customers into questioning what you or your company really stand for and say.
So, keep your corvette, please… just give it a tune up!
Need help with a logo, or with a rebrand, to make sure you’re staying true to your brand’s message? Let me know!