Logo Logistics: Upgrade Or Leave Alone?

When Continental and United Airlines merged last year, the need to present the new company with a consolidated image was obvious. Continental's globe logo survived, while United Airlines kept the name, albeit with Continental's old font lettering. The United 'U' was scrapped altogether.

Some graphic design-minded critics have argued that the merged company should have launched with a fresh face. However, history shows that with logos, tradition matters. Brands like Coca-Cola and Apple dominate partly because their images are so ubiquitous and unmistakable.

Unfortunately, when it comes to updating your logo, it's rarely as cut and dried as a merger. If you've been considering an overhaul, perhaps you fit one of these scenarios.

1. Business Is Slow. Maybe you let a friend design your logo, and it's simply not eye-catching. If you have yet to build a loyal customer base and are looking to make a big push for you company, consider an image overhaul. Spend the capital to do it right, including a professional logo and accompanying marketing campaign, so that people actually see it.



2. Your Logo Looks Outdated. Design goes through trends, just like fashion, and if you've built a reputation with an existing logo in place, it would be foolish to scrap it. But tiny tweaks to keep it en vogue? Go right ahead. Look at the subtle changes BMW has made over the years as a great example of how to evolve while staying the same.

3. Your Logo is Too Flashy. Maybe you launched with a complicated, intricate drawing as your logo, and now you're faced with steep printing charges every time you want to put your seven-color logo on a new letterhead or business card. If your logo doesn't translate well to black-and-white, or at least to a two-color format, it's wise to simplify. Remember how Apple used to squeeze the whole rainbow into its fruity logo? Its shift to a simple silver has served it well.

4. Lawyers Come Knocking. If you realize that your branding may overlap with an existing company's copyrights, seize the opportunity to create a new logo with life of its own. Mozilla Firefox's Internet browser (perhaps you're using it now?) was called Phoenix in 2002, with a fiery red bird logo. The company ran into problems with the word Phoenix, first changing its name to Firebird before realizing the opportunity a complete rebrand it could offer.

5. Divine Inspiration Strikes. If you've been shuffling along with a logo that was simply "good enough" when you started, don't be afraid to listen to that lightning bolt of creative genius that strikes you. Of course, talk to your trusted business confidantes and a few loyal customers before making a major change, but there's a far cry between a "golden arches" piece of marketing gold and a simple picture of a burger. Give your gut some credence, but don't ignore the value of consistency. Still, if the perfect logo falls out of the sky in front of you, take it to the bank and cash it.

Chris Wallace is vice president of marketing at Amsterdam Printing.


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