Why Do Companies Change Their Logos?

As I struggled and struggled to find a topic to write about this week (I’ll blame this on The Donald) I came across something interesting. When I scrolled through my apps on my phone, I noticed that something seemed a bit off about my Tumblr app: The logo changed. The difference was so subtle that I wasn’t even sure if it did change, so I checked my updates in the app store. Sure enough, I see this:

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In four words at the bottom of an app update description that people barely read, Tumblr let us know that they did indeed change their logo from a three dimensional lowercase t to a “flat t”.

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This made me wonder about logos in general, and all the things considered when a logo is changed. There is so much psychological and cultural research that goes into why a logo is designed the way it is, but I won’t get into that as it would be impossible to cover in 1200 words. So instead, I will talk about different reasons why a logo is changed.

The design is outdated

This one is simple. Companies have to keep up with the trends in logo design and fit the current culture. Over the past decade, there has been a huge push for minimalist design with simple, monochrome colors. Here are a few examples:

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These are just a few examples of companies that have all done the same thing: they made their logo designs simpler. All of them switched to friendlier and bubblier fonts, used colors that are slightly lighter and easier on the eyes, and eliminated any shadows that gave the design a three-dimensional look.

The company’s brand is that strong

When a company reaches a certain level of popularity and brand recognition, they have the opportunity to simplify their logo design since it has become such a household name. Here are some examples:

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Both Nike and McDonald’s logos are unmistakable. Because of this, as you can see, they have taken out the names ‘Nike’ and ‘McDonald’s’ from their logo since the name itself is not needed for customers to recognize the brand. By doing this, they have established themselves as more than just a popular sportswear brand and popular fast food brand; they are some of the greatest brands out there, period.

The company has expanded

This reason for changing a logo is similar to the previous reason I gave you, in that it require taking out certain words. However, it is for a different purpose. There are many companies who started out offering a certain product or service, but grew and expanded to start offering other things. This can be seen by companies like Dominos, Starbucks, and Snapchat.

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In all of these examples, a word or image has been taken out due to its limiting effect on the brand. For Dominos, they eliminated ‘Pizza’ from the name and logo once they started offering other foods like sandwiches, pasta bowls, and chicken wings. For Starbucks, they took out ‘Coffee’ from the name because they also have grown to offer several more things like breakfast and lunch. The change in the Snapchat logo in 2013 is really interesting, especially considering everything that has happened with Snapchat over the course of this semester with the introduction of the Spectacles and the name change to Snap Inc. Back in 2013 I thought that the logo change was just a shift towards a minimalist logo design, achieved by eliminating the face and making the background one solid color. Now I am realizing that the face itself was also limiting, just like the ‘Pizza’ in Dominos Pizza and ‘Coffee’ in Starbucks Coffee. I believe the ghost face made Snapchat look like a company that only made pictures disappear after they’re opened. When Snapchat realized their potential to expand and dominate the social media space, they probably decided to eliminate the face and just have the popular silhouette of the ghost, which would allow for a greater representation of everything that Snapchat offers.

The company has a bad image

This reason for changing a logo is very important. There are many companies who have developed a bad rep, and because of this, their logos incite negative reactions when people look at them. By changing their logo, they can actually repair their image and rebrand themselves, with the hope that this new logo can provide a clean slate and wipe away any negative emotions brought about by the old logo. Take BP and Uber, for example.

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Back in the 1990s, there was terrible public perception of big oil companies, so BP decided to make themselves look friendlier by spending $211 million to unveil a new logo in 2000. As you can see by the new logo, it is way more appealing and automatically invokes happier and warmer emotions than the old logo. It has a burst of color in the shape of a blossoming flower that’s pleasing to the eye, with friendly, lowercase letters as opposed to the aggressive and downright scary look of the uppercase BP in a shield.

Uber is another company that was in desperate need of rebranding. Since its inception, it has been ridden with controversy after controversy, from plotting revenge campaigns against journalists to sexist comments from Uber executives to crazy surge pricing. I can confirm that Uber has a terrible rep. Just the name itself made me feel uncomfortable, and the app before the redesign definitely invoked emotions of distrust and skepticism. Uber definitely realized that they don’t have the greatest rep, so they decided to do a major rebranding, not only of their logo, but their entire app and interface. The result is a friendlier design and better user experience. The minute I started using the new Uber app, I already felt more positive emotions towards the app and the brand in general.

Conclusion

BP is still the same oil company it was before. It’s still doing whatever it can to make the most money possible, regardless of it’s effect on the environment or local populations. Uber is still the same ride-sharing app it was before, with the same sneaky and conniving executives. McDonald’s is still terrible for you, regardless of how sleek, cool and hipster the logo has become! However, these companies have found a way to change public perception of their brand by changing the look of their logo, and have definitely turned a profit because of it. This is the power of branding, and shows just how much a good logo can do for your company.

My question for you is, are you as vulnerable as I am when companies rebrand? Do you still feel the same way towards companies before and after they change their logo?

10 comments

  1. francoismba · ·

    Great examples of companies that have changed or altered their logos for various reasons. While some companies make relatively minor adjustments to their logos, others completely change the look and feel of the logo. For example, Uber’s recent logo changes were so drastic that I had a difficult time finding the app on my phone – I thought I had accidentally deleted the app. Do you think logo alterations can have a negative impact on the company’s sales?

  2. Great summary of the various reasons for why companies change their logos. I wonder if there’s any kind of correlation between how the UI/UX of things like mobile apps change with changes in the company logo. To answer your final question, I think companies are able to recapture my attention if I had removed them from my view. For example, Nike made such small changes to their logo, but it changed the way the logo was put on each one of their shoes. I think it’s a great method to become popular/put your name back on the map. Thanks for sharing!

  3. emmaharney21 · ·

    This is a great post! I was actually working for Staples in their Community and Giving Division and the Staples Share Fund when they changed the overall company logo to get rid of the brick in the background. Being on the inside of a change like this was incredibly interesting.

    What I learned on the inside was that there are a few ways that companies can go about logo changes. One was is an immediate change where almost overnight all logos are changed instantaneously. Staples went with the second option which is more gradual. Over time the company slowly phases out a logo and changes to the new one. In this situation, Staples slowly changed the way the logo looked online, in stores and internally.

    Because I worked with the Staples Share Fund http://staplessharefund.org we have our own logo that involves the Staples logo but is separate. We are technically our own non-profit entity that is associated with Staples as a company but not part of it. Our logo involves the old version of the Staples logo with the brick. We ran into several issues with our marketing team trying to agree on how exactly we were going to change our logo or if we were going to leave it along. The Staples Share fund logo was one of many internally facing logos that were up for debate in terms of change. The argument was that since only internal employees were going to see the logo (not external customers) it could be left alone.

    I think this situation I experienced demonstrated to me how important a logo is for a company. A logo is what unifies customer perception of an organization and marketing teams clearly take this very seriously. Great post!

  4. Great post! I have always been interested in company brands and the brand equity a certain logo can hold. For many companies their logo not only serves as their identifiers, but also as one of their greatest assets. People develop a sense of loyalty to the logo and associate certain values and characteristics with the logo. I know this is the more psycholgical aspect rebranding that you did not dip into, but I find it fascinating. I think you did a great job going through the practical reasons why a company has to or wants to rebrand, but it leaves me wanting more. I want to know why people are willing to pay $100 for the leggings that have the lulu brand on it? Why do people pay $1500 for a pair of red bottom, Louis Vuitton shoes? Due to my curiosity in this area, I have decide to take strategic brand management next semester to learn more about the aspects surrounding questions about brand equity.

  5. Austin Ellis · ·

    Really great and interesting read. Going into detail on something so common yet so important was really insightful. Your point about Snapchat was particularly astute, as they no longer want to be seen as selfie/image sharing, and more of a news source and social network. Emotions and associations can be easily influenced by colors and design, so rounded letters and warm tones have become increasingly common. The only annoying part is when someone like Uber makes such a complete change in its logo design, and I struggle to find the app on my phone. Thanks for the post!

  6. Great post! It was nice having a concise list of examples of why companies would change their logos. I was actually really surprised that you didn’t mention Instagram in the list, as Instagram’s change to their app icon really sparked a lot of conversation. Tons of people didn’t like the change, and compared it to something a kid in middle school would make with the gradient tool in Paint. I assume it was Instagram trying to catch up with the times, since they thought the old design was outdated, but I (and I think a lot of other people) liked the old version better.

    I also think a problem that companies have when they redesign logos/app icons is that it makes it much easier for users to forget about the app. For example, I knew that when Uber redesigned their app icon a lot of people were confused when they could no longer find the Uber app on their phone. They were so used to seeing that old design and began to expect it. Some people even thought that they’d accidentally deleted the app or something like that. This could be an issue as it could cause people to sort of just shrug and go use another app instead (like Lyft instead of Uber).

    I’ve also done some graphic design work in the past and am taking a digital design class now, and this posts makes me wonder just how many rounds of iteration the logos go through. I redesigned the logo for BC’s Marketing Academy and that took me about 2 months and 50 different variations, and then probably about 20 redesigns of the chosen variation! So I can only imagine how long the process is to redesign a logo for a company that has millions of customers/users (and those poor designers who have to listen to so many people’s opinions and who have to try and please so many people at once).

  7. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great post. You covered a lot of different reasons as to why a company would want to change its company logo. The one thing that has always puzzled me though is when a company changes its logo so drastically that it appears to have absolutely no relation with itself. For example, in my opinion, don’t think the new Uber logo makes any sense; that symbol has know easily discernible features one can associate with Uber. When the symbol changed, I know many people that had a hard time finding the app on their phone.

  8. Great article. To be honest I did not even realize that some of the Companies that you posted changed or altered their logos, until I read about them. Wow either I do not pay that much attention or something but that is unreal. I feel logos or styles that are aesthetically pleasing do not generally appeal to the eye and may change over time.

  9. Cool post! I don’t know if the change of logo is as effective as it is thought to be. I believe that the change of logo is useful, but 211$ millions is a lot of money for just one image, i would like to see which are the studies that they did before and after the introduction of the logo.
    Having said that it is true that the change of the logo is effective, at least in my opinion, specially in the case of BP, however there is times where is impossible to perceive the changes, such is the case with Google, which took me a while to realize the change done in 2013, is the money the paid worth that change?

  10. Nice post. I think you could have woven in the digital aspects better, but it was still and interesting and thorough treatment!

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