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Brandstand: When logos start to talk

From being the keeper of the crown, the logo is now a high-potential leg of the integrated brand experience, giving customers fresh reasons to engage. We live in considerably less-formal times than earlier, our visible identities an endearing indicator and not a weighty miniaturisation of our chosen and proven substance

In recent days, changing brand logos are under the scanner, drawing both applause and criticism from knowing audiences. Unlike the unidimensional past, modern-day business practices consider the brand logo to be a key strategic ally in customer engagement as opposed to a permanent identity. The emerging, though arguably timeless, opportunities for logo applications can well be ascertained by the following four instances.

The first case, closest to the communications industry, is the startling face of the Wunderman Thompson merger, minimalistic or simplistic, depending on your vision. Its role is to signify a clear departure from the past while signalling a promising future, the present just a necessary bridge. Critics consider its starkness to be the deprivation of imagination, although it does represent the new school of identity, a conversation starter as opposed to a conversation piece. A bare canvas that permits the actors to carve a suitable path, less of a lighthouse and more of a GPS, the destination changing as per decree of environment and imagination.

The second case is that of Zara, the new logo eliminating the distance among the letters, as if in inseparable amorous alignment. Its objective is to plainly signify New News, critical in the competitive world of fashion, leading to top-of-mind residency. Once again, critics are dumbfounded by its insufficient elegance, while in terms of stylised quirk the evolution is considerable. Do not be surprised if this is just a temporary ruse, the reinstatement of the old logo very much a part of the strategic game plan. In either case, the ability of a controversial alteration to stir up a disproportionate conversation is well proven, with every chance of improving sales.

The third case, most recent, is the new ‘tattva’ look of Wills Lifestyle, now termed WLS. Its objective is textbook-classical, the new identity representing the seminal shift of the value proposition from elegant lifestyle to sustainable fashion. As per traditional practice, the finest reason to have a new logo, fulfilling its role as the face of a revitalised corporate organisation, with new engineering and go-to-market philosophies. Much against contemporary thinking, this brand has invested in a visual mnemonic and not just a stylised typeface, a move that can be justified if the unit is utilised with imagination. Else, it can be an aesthetic or operational liability, leading chiefly to complicated brand manuals with counter-intuitive applications.

The fourth case of Lacoste, which swapped its distinctive crocodile logo for one of 10 threatened animal species on a series of limited-edition polo shirts, to bring attention to the global state of biodiversity. Limited edition Lacoste x Save Our Species polo shirts, which featured endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger and the Anegada Rock Iguana in place of the famous crocodile. For each species, the number of polo shirts produced corresponded to the number of individuals known to remain in the wild. Thus, demonstrating the power of the logo as a tactical point-in-time tool, capable of supporting disruptive marketing initiatives with much aplomb.

In every case mentioned and in so many more, the emerging agenda of the brand logo is clearly established. Just like people, the most popular metaphor, brands now have the licence to change multiple times in a lifetime, the logo a suitable abettor in this journey. It need not have the imposed gravitas of a registered trademark, legal identity necessarily separate, instead be comparable to the CEO suite, people and policies changing in tune with the racing times. From being the keeper of the crown, the logo is now a high-potential leg of the integrated brand experience, giving customers fresh reasons to engage. We live in considerably less-formal times than earlier, our visible identities an endearing indicator and not a weighty miniaturisation of our chosen and proven substance.

Much credit is due to the digital economy certainly, the trend towards simplicity emerging from the practical considerations of online engagement, the URL in words becoming the primary recognition for every brand. Thus, marketing efforts are geared towards the urgent memorability of words and not the time-consuming infusion of symbols. Abbreviation as a technique, like WLS, emerging from the imperatives of such interactions, the lesser the merrier when ownability is ensured.

Criticisms and critiques will naturally be on overdrive as changing logos are the subject of much opinion, especially in the shoot-from-the-hip social media environs. While that is the subject of another piece, I do believe that we are deeply uncomfortable with the unconventional trajectory of logo designs. Irrationally expecting them to be the timelessly elegant purveyors of a well-honed philosophy when instead, they are best at being symbolic conveyors of valuable intent, changing sharply and swiftly. It’s time to bridge the distance between us and logos and thus lay the foundation for beautiful conversations.

ShivajiDasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: inexgro@gmail.com)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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