The third installment in the Inspirational Alphabet Logo Design Series comprises my top 10 favourite letter Cc logo designs. In my experience the letter C is one of the more challenging characters in the alphabet to create interest in. My respect goes out to all the designers featured here. They’ve nailed it.
If ever there was a company in need of a rebranding in 2013, Yahoo was it.
Once the über cool poster child for the bustling internet scene, Yahoo has become an aged, virtually irrelevant tech brand. With public opinion and stock prices dropping, Yahoo made its last-ditch effort to save the company by acquiring Google alumna, Marissa Mayer as its messiah CEO in 2012.
Under Mayer, Yahoo stockpiled 23 startups in 2013, including Qwiki, Xobni, and the microblogging platform and social networking website, Tumblr. Yahoo also struck up a licensing deal to stream SNL, and it completely overhauled its photo service Flickr, all in an attempt to reconnect with the younger demographic.
Then in the late summer of 2013, Yahoo announced the visual update to the brand—a new logo was soon to come. But instead of unveiling one logo as most brands would, Yahoo thought it would be hip and edgy to unveil 30 logos over the course of 30 consecutive days. On the 31st day it would choose the winning design to move forward with.
Unfortunately the new uninspired logo disappointed anyone who gave a shit.
While it was an improvement from the dated original, there was nothing about the new identity to fortify Yahoo’s innovation prowess. In my opinion, the excessive hype was a big gamble and big mistake, as it pushed the new logo into an arena where only a home run would suffice. The idiotic logo bake-off of 2013 was a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering, and it’s for this reason Yahoo comes in at #3 on my list. While Mayer is proving she has a killer long-term business strategy focused on building Yahoo into an essential mobile device fixture, the visual aspects of the brand strategy simply aren’t in alignment with where this brand is going. In 2014, will you Yahoo?
When CEO, Mark Weinberger took the helm of Ernst & Young in 2013, rebranding the firm might have seemed like a cool idea.
In July 2013, the iconic Ernst & Young name was shortened to its initials, EY. Weinberger provided rationale for the change in a press release announcing the rebrand, “Shortening our name will provide consistency and ease of use for EY practices and clients around the world.”
Of course with the name change, the prosaic Ernst & Young logo was also turfed, replaced by a bolder two letter monogram designed by London brand consultants, BrandPie.
The only element that was kept from Ernst & Young’s original design system was its beacon of light, which was retained to mark the forward looking firm.
While I believe Weinberger’s rationale was silly and weak, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. At least there was some rationale. Too many companies re-logo themselves under the guise of a rebrand without giving it any thought.
Having said that, this is where the rationale stops and any semblance of a strategy completely falls apart. You see, long before Ernst & Young ever considered the notion to abbreviate its name, EY! had existed for five years as a popular gay men’s magazine.
EY! (a.k.a. Electric Youth) magazine features pretty boys in thongs only Sisqo could be proud of. And from what I’ve learned through my research, EY! is as cool as it gets when it comes to gay soft porn.
Wouldn’t one expect the world’s biggest audit firm to, um…audit the EY brand name prior to beginning a major rebranding?
I understand opening Google on your desktop, typing “EY” into the search bar, and observing what pops up is hard work—but come on. Had any one person at Ernst & Young or BrandPie actually completed an EY name search they would have very quickly realized the search results are dominated by images of EY!’s models.
So now, not one—but two big branding issues exist.
For EY the audit firm, it calls into question its auditing practices. Will this gaffe negatively impact its audience’s perceptions of the brand and the quality of the work? Maybe. Also, the web is now replete with news stories such as, “Ernst & Young Accidentally Rebrands Itself as Porn.” Such attention has, and will only serve to make any future marketing efforts extremely conservative. Probably not the direction Weinberger was hoping to take the brand.
As for EY! the magazine, it now also faces brand confusion as it’s potentially being seen as pimping overweight, grey-haired heteros in business suits.
1. JCPenney (The brand formerly known as Prince, jcp, and JCPenney):
Owning the top spot for 2013’s Worst Rebrands is JCPenney.
What a train wreck. The JCPenney brand debacle continues to baffle and entertain me with its blatant absence of any strategic thinking.
JCPenney moved up one spot from 2012’s Worst Rebrands not because it reverted back to its logo of 2010, but because in the span of three years, JCPenney has completely mismanaged its brand to the point of having to issue a 30-second televised apology.
JCPenney, it’s time you get your shit together. Seriously. I understand you’re trying hard to stay relevant but returning to the old image is a step in the wrong direction.
What will we see in 2014 from these characters? I’m not sure, but if history has any say (and future has a good sense of humour), we should expect the brand continue to “evolve” by dropping the JC from its name. Simply to be known as Penneys.
What lessons can be learned from 2013?
Lesson 3: Glimpse into the future (or at very least, the present).
A new brand identity should visually mark where your brand is going, not where it is; otherwise it’s already outdated. None of 2013’s winning losers have pushed the envelope with their rebranding efforts. There is nothing that looks or feels new.
Lesson 2: Look outside (just as deep as you look inside).
Clearly these branding exercises didn’t involve a review of competitive brands. Failing to do so immediately doomed them to incremental improvements at best. If a company aspires to be known as having the best brand in its industry it should raise the bar and compare itself to bigger/better brands.
Lesson 1: Rebrand with substance.
A logo should only change to reflect a substantive change in brand and business strategy. A new brand does not a new logo make.
What do you think?
Did I get it right? Was there another brand that should have made the list instead? I’d love to hear from you.
The second collection in the 26 part, art for art’s sake series is of some of my favourite letter Bb logo designs. When it comes to the letter B, there are so many amazing designs and it was hard to narrow it down to just 10.
Unfortunately there aren’t many lowercase letter b logos out there and that’s a shame because it’s a beautiful character. The silver lining in this for anyone who owns a company that starts with the letter b and has a unisex or feminine-skewed audience is the lowercase letter b logo oversight sets the stage for your identity to stand out!
A quick peruse of Urban Jungle’s website and you quickly discover that whenever we’re examining logos we’re usually discussing the strategies around them. This is not one of those times. The Inspirational Alphabet Logo Design Series is an homage to the letters of the English alphabet purely for the fun of it. It’s about letting the art speak for itself and recognizing beautiful designs simply for what they are.
The following collection is of my favourite letter Aa logo designs.
The move was the first of its kind for the Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas airline giant in over 40 years. The beloved AA and diving eagle logo designed in 1967 by Massimo Vignelli, are heading American’s museum to sit next to its FC-2Ws; the oldest airplanes to fly under the American Airlines name.
Passengers are slowly being introduced to a shiner, prettier, less aggressive version of the logo, as well as the red and blue stripes of the US flag wrapping the tails of American’s iconic silver planes.
Love or hate the new identity, it’s irrelevant.
Read virtually any online conversation about American’s new design system and the debates between the love and hate camps are endless. The purpose of this post isn’t to discuss design choices, but rather to discuss the often overlooked, but most important aspect of any rebranding effort—the customer experience.
On November 29, 2011, American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey stepped down and was replaced by company president Thomas W. Horton. Eight months later American announced capacity cuts due to the grounding of several aircraft associated with its bankruptcy and lack of pilots due to retirements. Shortly thereafter, US Airways CEO Doug Parker announced that American Airlines and US Airways had signed a nondisclosure agreement, in which the airlines would discuss their financials and a possible merger. On September 18, 2012, American announced it had notified more than 11,000 workers of possible job loss as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. Despite Horton’s more recent announcement of plans to hire 2,500 pilots over the next 2 years, little else has been publicly discussed about what he and the rest of American’s executives are doing to turn this unstable company around.
In my opinion, this lack of communication is a mistake.
Assuming a new brand strategy is already mapped out, one of the first moves in American’s rebranding effort should be to announce plans of change. An announcement of Obama-like proportions humbly and clearly answering questions like: What mistakes did American make that led to its near demise? What did American learn from these mistakes? How does American plan to change? And what specifically will American do to win back its customers? These are all important questions that any investor, employee, customer, or media personnel would naturally want to have answers to.
Once this important step is taken care of, the next step is to begin fulfilling on the promises made. From its bad food and boring flights to rude employees, last minute cancellations and poorly maintained planes, the most often heard complaint of its passengers is of the shitty experience on an American flight.
Obviously change is not a quick and easy process.
Current staff need to be evaluated and in many cases let go. New, highly-motivated people with great personalities need to be brought on board. Everyone needs to be trained on the new vision, new systems and processes, and how to deliver the new experience. And ultimately, bad experiences need to be turned into a positive ones—winning customers back one at a time.
As the company starts to right itself and its customers begin to experience the “new” American Airlines, then, and only then, is it time to launch the new identity and design system. This is the visual icing on the cake helping to solidify the new brand in the customers’ minds.
Unfortunately for American’s customers it doesn’t appear the experience has changed much.
Both the pilots union and the flight attendants union speak of the deep rift between management and employees; a rift threatening to undermine the company, as they criticize management for “playing” around with a new logo while ignoring the ongoing financial/cultural problems.
The staff and their unions are exactly right. How will a new logo and design system turn the company around? How will a new ad campaign change passengers’ deeply rooted negative perceptions of a brand?
They don’t. Ultimately, if your service sucks, your staff are rude, and everyone isn’t pointed in the same direction to turn the company around, it doesn’t matter what your new logo or design system look like.
American isn’t listening.
And as such, it’s likely that it will not be around in a few years. Staff are lobbying hard for the potential merger with US Airways and if that were to occur it will be interesting to see how this affects the recent cosmetic attempts to rebuild the brand…especially since it’s not likely to remain an entity that goes by the name of “American.”
Talk about disasters. This year saw a number of well-known brands attempting to “rebrand” themselves and ending up with results that, unfortunately, give branding—and rebranding—a bad name.
2012 set a new standard for brand stupidity.
The disasters outlined below are not examples of real rebranding. They are attempts to update the company’s image, which is called “refreshing.” Design for vanity’s sake.
This post discusses the horribly flawed logo refreshes and provides some insights into the fragmented and incomplete brand strategies behind them.
So which companies failed the worst?
The most absurd attempt to update a brand identity in 2012 was made by Gap. After only eight days of public ridicule, Gap reversed its soft rollout and went back to its original iconic logo.
GAP has clearly lost its way. No vision. No sense of self. How else can you explain this mishap?
2. JC Penney
The situation can’t be good when you announce your third “rebranding” project in three years. You know the situation’s even worse when Forbes Magazine calls your latest effort an “epic failure.” Yikes.
Why does JC Penney feel it needs to keep reinventing itself?
This is what happens when your entire strategy and market position is built on lowest price. When your promise to consumers is the lowest price, you literally have nowhere to go but down.
Furthermore, once you’ve positioned yourself as the bargain brand, you can’t expect to reposition yourself still as a bargain brand but with newer, higher prices. You’ve broken your promise, and your customers won’t stand for it. And they’ll show you by taking their business elsewhere. (I’m not sure what the most recent statistics are, but earlier this year I read that JCP’s sales dropped nearly 20%.)
Oh Arby’s. Poor, poor Arby’s.
In October 2012, Arby’s unveiled one of the most depressing examples of a logo update I’ve ever seen. First, it used an outdated typeface. Second, it chose a weak lowercase “a” for the name. (Will the macho male ever be able to relate to this new soft lettering? Only time will tell.) Third, its redesigned apostrophe is confusing at best. And finally, its 3-D rendering of the 10-gallon hat is abysmal. Does the 3-D effect serve any purpose whatsoever? Was it designed on whimsy?
This logo was so poorly executed that Armin Vit from the esteemed branding blog, Brand New joined in the public beat-down, saying, “The new logo retains the hat shape, along with some unfortunate 3D extrusion, but replaces the typography with some flavorless, sans serif with a lowercase “a” and the sharpest, biggest (and is that shiniest?) apostrophe that no logo ever needed.”
Are these minor details? Perhaps to most people, yes. But to someone like me who thinks about branding every day, I see this as a company more concerned with looking cool than it is with delivering tasty hot sangwiches. I believe it begs the question, if Arby’s leaders are not concerned with the minor details of its highly public image, would this lack of concern translate to the not-so-public details of preparing its food? Maybe. Maybe not.
Sorry, but I don’t like betting on maybes.
Microsoft also recently changed its identity in 2012, from its good ol’ faithful of 25 years, to four squares. Yes, four squares.
If we’re redefining a brand, what do four squares convey about what Microsoft stands for as a brand? I don’t know either. I suppose if each square were meant to represent one of its products, then it would make sense. But Microsoft has five major products, so it’s obviously not the products these squares are meant to represent. I have more to say on the hapless strategic efforts behind this rebrand in a post I wrote earlier this year.
I suspect some designers would insist the new logo is “nice and clean,” but I think it’s just all-around weak. Sure, the colour palette is more playful than the original, but the typeface—with its light grey colouring and thin style—is quite vanilla. Any impact it once had with the bold lettering is now a distant memory.
Wendy’s went from the logo that has served the company for 30 years to a more contemporary look. For the first time since 1983, the Ohio-based fast-food company unveiled this new updated logo.
The Associated Press release stated, “In a move intended to signal its ongoing transformation into a higher-end hamburger chain, instead of the boxy, old-fashioned lettering against a red-and-yellow backdrop, the pared down new look features the chain’s name in a casual red font against a clean white backdrop.”
While I understand that it needed to update its outdated image, I don’t understand the “higher-end” aspect of this refresh effort. How does Wendy’s cute portrait accompanied by this typeface imply “higher-end?” Doesn’t it come across as something targeting youngsters?
I also don’t understand why the word “hamburgers” is missing. Without this key descriptor, Wendy’s could be a toy store or a clothing store just as much as it is a burger joint.
Rebranding isn’t done on a whim, nor is it simply a cosmetic facelift.
Real rebranding is highly strategic, intelligently conceived, complete, and interconnected. It answers very specific questions to guide and position a company.
It upsets me that these companies are not being better taken care of by those who promise them new brands. But it really upsets me that the leaders of these companies aren’t taking better care of their brands. They are walking into agencies without a clearly articulated vision, mission, or position, and asking for a new identity. All the agencies are left with are meaningless creative briefs to try and make a company look more cool or edgy.
The bottom line is the madness needs to stop. If it doesn’t, good companies will never become—or remain—great, and millions of dollars will continue to be wasted.
There’s been a lot of talk over the internets the last few weeks in regards to big brands’ rebranding efforts. On August 23, 2012 Microsoft unveiled its new logo, the first update of its kind in last 25 years for the Redmond-based software giant.
More recently, eBay also took the plunge and refreshed its logo. A logo that has remained untouched in the company’s 17 year history.
This post isn’t so much to debate the shortcomings of these updated logos and skewed marketing strategies (albeit I believe they are both diluted and soulless disasters), I’ll save that for a future post when I talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2012.
This post is instead created to explore whether these updates were actually rebrands, or simply logo refreshes.
What’s the different between rebranding and refreshing?
The difference is huge. While the answer might seem obvious to some, the words “branding” and “rebranding” have been horribly Frankensteined by wayward marketing companies, typically by those who don’t understand the true function of branding.
Is the act of altering the vision, mission, position, and promise of a company. Because this change of course is such a big deal both internally and externally, once the brand strategy is determined, a visual and written change in the communication of the company typically accompanies the rebranding efforts. Logos get updated, colours and fonts change, language is refined, and in extreme cases, companies even rename.
On the contrary, refreshing is the act of changing the aesthetic components of a brand, typically to update the appearance and revitalize the company’s image. This is the brand marketing equivalent of updating a wardrobe or getting a new haircut. The individual’s values, beliefs, and personality usually haven’t changed, just their image has.
Now having an understanding of the difference between rebranding and refreshing, were Microsoft’s and eBay’s updates in fact rebrands or were they simply refreshes?
Microsoft = Refresh
In the case of Microsoft, nothing has changed. While it’s expanded its product line with the Windows Phone, they still offer Windows, they still offer Office, they still offer Internet Explorer, and they still offer Xbox. There’s no change in the company’s purpose, there’s no change in market position, there’s no change in brand promise, and there’s no change in the customer experience.
eBay = Rebrand
eBay’s situation is quite different than Microsoft’s. Once an on-line garage sale and auction site, eBay has evolved into a global marketing channel for people to launch their online stores and sell their goods. In this case, there’s a colossal change in what the company now offers and how it operates. When an evolution like this takes place, marketing strategies must adapt. Even if it’s organic, a brand has no choice but to reposition itself in the minds of its customers to ensure the experience is being communicated and delivered as promised.
Edmonton, AB, January 31, 2012 — With a potential multi-million-dollar rebranding prize looming for a lucky Alberta creative agency, specialist brand marketing firm Urban Jungle has offered Premier Alison Redford and the province’s taxpayers its services—free of charge.
Shortly after winning the Alberta PC leadership and settling into her new role as premier, Redford perked ears around the province declaring her desire to scrap the current slogan “Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.” in favour of something more representative of Alberta. The current slogan was created less than three years ago as part of a rebranding initiative by ad agency Calder Bateman at a reported cost of nearly $4 million.
“We are in full agreement with the premier’s position that the current branding for the province has not achieved, and will not achieve, the intended results, and that a solution is required. Since we are uniquely positioned with the expertise and ability to donate our services, we’d like to step up and help get it done right,” said Urban Jungle founder, Craig Blackburn.
In Blackburn’s view, the results of the previous branding exercise indicate the focus was on creating a logo, slogan, and advertising campaign rather than developing a brand.
The creative component appeared to take precedence over developing and activating a complete brand strategy as a means to unify perceptions of Albertans,” Blackburn added. “We are concerned that any new branding initiative developed under a similar premise and budget will yield the same result—a financial windfall for the creative firm, media sellers, and producers with no measurable return on investment for the province.”
Urban Jungle has contacted the premier’s office with an offer of brand development services. The intent is to help the Brand Initiative Team refine components of “current” Alberta brand strategy to be more representative of the province—communicating that Alberta is a great place to live, work, visit and invest in.
Through a straightforward process of analyzing and distilling research provided in the previous branding initiative, Urban Jungle’s brand strategists would create a revised strategy to inspire and guide Albertans of all ages and walks of life to become the living essence of the Alberta brand.
“As progressive Albertans, we believe that, unless the right action is taken now, the future of our province’s brand is tenuous. We owe it to each other and our children to turn complacency and indifference into inspiration, leadership, and results,” said Blackburn. “A strong brand can deliver this without spending millions of dollars on a new logo and slogan.”
Urban Jungle is currently working on an Alberta brand strategy while awaiting a reply from the premier’s office.
About Urban Jungle
Established in 2000, Urban Jungle specializes in brand development for organizations seeking to strengthen their brand, improve their business, and dominate their market. Unlike advertising agencies, marketing firms, and graphic design studios, Urban Jungle helps clients bring clarity to their brand vision—inspiring employees, guiding business development, and creating strong connections with customers and other audiences.
Phone: 780 701 9877
Media contact: Craig Blackburn, Principal
craig [at] urbanjungle.ca
780 701 9877 x1