First off, consumers are inundated with thousands of marketing messages a day, which makes having an effective shorthand for your brand critically important. A well-done, highly recognizable logo should instantly communicate your brand by serving as a symbol of your voice and image in the marketplace.
But all logos are not created equal. Just look at the new logo that's been created from the merger of United and Continental. United's logo was long hailed as a classic of design with a wonderfully recognized "U" shaped icon and bold typography. Unfortunately, the newly created United Airlines logo eschews all its familiar and defining elements and has morphed into a United version of the old Continental logo complete with its non-descript typeface and spinning globe. So what message does this mash-up send to consumers? Is this really a "new" airline or simply the old Continental being renamed United? Any semblance of the "Friendly Skies" seems lost, as was the opportunity to create something that truly repositions the brand as being fresh and modern.
More successful is the high-speed train operator Eurostar, which used a time of change within the company as an opportunity to reinvent its graphic identity. The new logo -- whether you love the design or not -- is now a visual symbol that embodies Eurostar's total commitment to upgrade the product and guest experience. As the head of the design firm involved in the project put it, "We wanted it to be a symbol of change, not a changed symbol."
It's also interesting to see brands return to their past, as they explore and extend the equity that is often inherent in their logos. A perfect example is Japan Airlines, which had reduced its brand to JAL and probably had a whole generation of travelers who knew little to nothing about what the initials stood for. Now the airline has returned to a bold-type treatment that fully spells out the airline's name and it is once again using the red-crowned crane symbol that was introduced in 1959.
As you look to develop or reexamine your own brand logo and iconography, it's important that you take a fresh and modern perspective that acknowledges its need to work across a multitude of environments and media that were not even imagined when your logo was born. Ironically, this exploration can often mean returning to your roots as a business and exploring those attributes, values and assets that define who you are. Some things to ask yourself:
All great brands need to regularly look at how they represent themselves and continually explore how they can build upon the existing equity of their logo while strengthening its ability to serve as a shorthand to communicate their story.
Your brand may be forever, but the way you represent and symbolize it to your target audience shouldn't be.