The unveiling of Instagram’s new logo created quite a stir. On social media, in print and everywhere news lives, people debated the merits and shortfalls of the logo. While opinions were divided, the feeling seemed to be that Instagram missed an opportunity and instead delivered us a sub-par substitution for their beloved camera icon.
What happened to Instagram is far from an isolated incident. The last few years have seen many brands launch new looks and logos. Many were developed over months and for millions of dollars, only to be met with resounding howls and boos. While Instagram is staying the course, some brands withdrew their logos almost immediately after launch. This speedy retreat in the face of criticism seems to be a new normal, leading some of us to wonder if it’s still possible to launch a successful new logo for a well-known brand. The answer is yes, but it requires the exercise of a little strategic patience.
Consider this reality. While it was once standard practice to update a logo every few years, social media now provides an instantaneous platform for commentary. And people do love to comment, especially when they can find a funny angle that will garner looks, likes and attention. Snark is fun. With every new logo, meme or viral image, the feedback loop grows faster and the comments sharper.
Perhaps the most notorious failed rebrand came from Tropicana in 2009. After the company changed their logo and packaging, commentary was swift and merciless. Consumers, marketing professionals and pundits weighed in, many saying the new graphics made it look like a low-end supermarket brand. Less than two months later Tropicana reverted to their former packaging, but by then the fiasco had cost the company millions.
By 2010, things went from zero to disaster even faster. The new Gap logo, introduced in October, disappeared like a Snapchat selfie after just six days of ruthless judgment that included being likened to clip art. In that case, recognizing a sub-par effort, the company tried pretending they meant all along for the logo to be a crowdsourcing project before finally giving up on it.
But here’s something positive: as the news cycle speeds up, the shelf life of any hot topic gets shorter. This is when that strategic patience pays off. The world may be hooting at your new logo this week, but next week — maybe even tomorrow — they’ll have something new to Photoshop next to Sad Keanu on the bench. So if you can just stay calm through the storm (and assuming your logo really is pretty good), chances are the furor will die down and your new logo, branding or graphics will go on to live a long and happy life.
And there’s something else, too. It may look to you like the whole world is hooting at you, but in reality social media has the power to magnify topics so that they appear much more dominant than they really are. Search your brand name and you may see 10 or 20 — or even 500 — nasty tweets about your new logo. But remember that there are 500 million tweets sent every day into the twittersphere. Most people will never see a single one about your logo.
So even if your rebrand is the center of attention, be patient. If you can just wait it out, in a few days the media will have a new chew toy, and your logo will settle into people’s consciousness. There are already examples of this; Uber, Verizon and Airbnb were all mocked when they launched their new logos. All three waited out the criticism and stuck by their new designs, which are now a part of our mental landscape.
This is the smart way to handle a logo change or rebrand in the new world of instantaneous feedback. For a little while, the world will have a great time snarking and coming up with alternative logos, all which drives more interest and visibility to the brand. And then it will all calm down and we can go on with our lives.