Logos are never heroes.

So, Burger King changed its logo. Out with the new, in with the old. The new logo had a retro feel that is becoming the new order in recent brand identity revamps. 

As marketers are won’t to do, we have been engaged in arcane semiotics about logo revamps like a coven of philosophical witches. 

At the risk of being considered a Luddite – which I am not – I have to say I like the new BK logo better. Not because it is an awesome logo design but because it more clearly reminds me of what the company does. Burgers. The Whooper. 

A logo has no strength outside of its brand promise. A logo has power or value only because of the belief, trust and expectation consumers ascribe to it. A logo can be wack or ‘ordinary’ yet the brand value, equity and market cap can be through the roof. 

Take a second look at the Nike logo. See any genius work in it? Squint a little bit harder. Seen it? Harder, mate, harder! 

Or look at the Samsung logo. See the fusion of Rembrandt and Vermeer in the design? The Monet oozing from it? You can’t see it?

 

 

If you can’t see the genius in the two logos above, that is because there is none in them. Meh designs. Time and their brand promises gave them power.

Yea, design purists will tell us simplicity in itself is an art – and it is – but simplicity can also be a fluke or outcome of lazy work. 

I’ve taken the liberty to put together the top 20 brands with the biggest market capitalisation. While you look at the numbers, consider the logos too. Do they presage the valuation? Are they so supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that you knew the company would be crapping gold bricks? 

Nope, not a snowball chance in hell.  

 Now, do not read me wrong. I like a well-designed and ‘creative’ logo. See the rider in the Tour De France logo? Super cool! Or the skyscrapers beneath the two giraffes in the Bronx Zoo logo? See the human head with headphones in the Beats logo? I like the aesthetics of all these logos. They are cool.

But I’ve been in marketing and branding long enough to know logos means squat outside of the promise and consistency they symbolise.

 

 

And I absolutely hate it when designers try to sell me some bull on the inherent greatness in a logo design. Stop imbuing logos with meanings, metaphors and symbolism that the consumers don’t see or give a hoot about!

The semiotics below was given by the agency that designed the current Pepsi logo in 2009. The project was titled “Breathtaking”. 

“The Pepsi ethos has evolved over time. The vocabulary of truth and simplicity is a reoccurring phenomena in the brand’s history. It communicates the brand in a timeless manner and with an expression of clarity. Pepsi BREATHTAKING builds on this knowledge. True innovation always begins by investigating the historic path. Going back-to-the-roots moves the brand forward as it changes the trajectory of the future.

Applying Universal Laws to Establish a Blueprint for the Brand.

The universe expands exponentially with f(x)=ex. [1 light year = 671 million miles per hour]. Dimensionalize exponentially…”

See, it’s drivel like these that turn good people into serial killers. Almost certain that was what started the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

All I see when I see the Pepsi logo is, surprise, a Pepsi logo! I don’t see gravitational pulls or intergalactic harmony.

Or consider the Unilever logo. Unilever says of the logo:

“Our logo was designed to include 25 icons, each of which represents something important to Unilever. From a lock of hair symbolising our shampoo brands to a spoon, an ice cream, a jar, a tea leaf, a hand and much more, the little icons all have a meaning.”

I like Unilever. Between it and Procter & Gamble, they taught the world brand management. But the Kool Aid on the explanation above is strong. I like to think the company designed the logo for its own internal pleasures. Why? Because consumers seldom scrutinise a logo to unearth its hidden meaning. Maybe you do. But I ain’t got the time. Look at the logo again and tell me where the lock of hair is. I’ll wait. 

Logos are overrated. Don’t major in the minor. By all means, get a good logo done. But understand that the brand stands or falls by its ability to deliver on a value proposition, not on the aesthetics of its logo or wordmark.

  

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