Monday, 20 February 2012

Stick to roots, comply with changes, build a brand

There are logos and there are brands. Logos are simply brand elements and sometimes these are so widely recognised that other brand elements like name, character, slogan, packaging, jingles etc. are overshadowed. Many brands have changed with time, changing all elements including their logos. However, many brands have stuck to their origins and haven’t changed a bit from their day of genesis. Taking the mid-path has always been beneficial to brands. The brand should upgrade its elements with the changing time, but must stick to its origins.

Al Ries and Laura Ries in their famous book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding say that whether the market conditions change, the brands should stick to its consistency in the chapter The Law of Consistency. However, in the next chapter The Law of Change, they advocate that brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully. The same has been followed by the world famous conservation brand WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The beautiful panda representing the world conservation organisation has changed with time to revitalise its image in the minds of millions of its followers.

There’s an interesting story attached to the history of WWF logo. When the group of conservationists who found WWF was looking for a logo to represent it, there was a giant panda named Chi Chi at the London Zoo. Naturalist Gerald Watterson drew preliminary sketches in admiration of Chi Chi. Sir Peter Scott then designed the world famous black and white logo of the giant panda which later became the symbol of the conservation movement.

In 1961, the WWF logo just had a giant panda and the panda was not looking straight at you. In 1978, the panda symbol was copyrighted and a © was added to the logo. In 1986, the logo was upgraded with the panda looking straight at the viewer. It helped the brand interact and create relationship with its followers more easily. Remember you interact more easily with a person who faces you from the front and looks into your eyes. Another brand element, the name of WWF in a trademarked serif font was also added. With the popularity of san serif fonts, the name WWF was replaced by WWF in a trademarked san serif font in 2000. The copyright symbol was shifted to the hind legs of the panda to balance the brand elements evenly. The same logo is being used till date with no changes. During its journey from 1961 till date, the brand has stuck to its origins with little tweaks and additions to revitalise its image among its followers. And it has been highly successful in creating the top of the mind recall among its audiences.

Apple is another famous brand which has stuck to its origins. Like WWF, its logo has displaced all other elements and has been the sole brand driver till date. The first Apple logo was designed in 1976 by Ronald Wayne, sometimes referred to as the third co-founder of Apple. The logo shows Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree and an apple dangling above his head. It was dedicated to the historic moment of the falling apple and discovery of the theory of gravity. The phrase on the outside border read, “Newton… A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” The first logo lasted only for a year.

Steve Jobs, the man who looked into details of brand building commissioned graphic designer Rob Janoff to modernise the logo which looked archaic. He was asked to stick to the origins and change just a little bit. Eventually he came with one of the most iconic and recognisable corporate logos in history. Janoff put a “bite” in the Apple logo to represent an apple, and not a tomato. Steve Jobs is rumoured to have insisted on using a colourful logo as a means to “humanise” the company. So Janoff added a rainbow stripe to the apple. Janoff arranged the colours without following any pattern as he wanted to add the green leaf at the top.

The multi-coloured Apple logo was in use for 22 years before Steve Jobs once again commissioned to modernise the logo. The colourful stripes were replaced with a more modern monochromatic look that has taken on a variety of sizes and colours over the past few years. The overall shape of the logo, however, remains unchanged from its original inception 33 years ago.

As the company started to innovate and produce sleek and cutting edge products, it needed a logo providing more flexibility in branding the products. The sleek and suave design of the monochromatic logo added to the brand value of the products.

The brands WWF and Apple stuck to their roots but upgraded their brand elements with the changing market trends. The wide recognition, customer loyalty and top of the mind recall were results of keeping the brand elements intact, with just little bit of tinkering from time to time following the market trends. Not only WWF and Apple but many brands have followed this trick to stay atop in the fierce competition, in the hearts of their loyal customers.

- WWF and Apple logos have been downloaded and adapted.

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