changing a logo can be risky

If you’ve ever thought about replacing your current logo, you may have broken out in a cold sweat.

Changing a logo can be risky, but sometimes it’s necessary to get to a higher level.  We’ve all read stories of branding changes and new brand marks (logos) that failed spectacularly. From Pepsi’s circular red, white and blue logo, which was quickly shelved in favor of the prior logo, to the Tropicana logo – a cleaner look that no one seemed able to find on store shelves, rolling out a new brand mark that fails can cause damage to your reputation and cost a bundle of money.  (Fear not, we’ll reveal the key to creating higher levels of acceptance.)

Even institutes of higher education are not exempt. The University of California rolled out a new logo in 2012 that drew criticism almost immediately. UC reported complaints from students and alumni, and quickly reverted back to the original brand mark. More recently, Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas suspended their new logo after a storm of complaints from stakeholders, jumping through hoops to replace the suspended logo in their spring 2014 campaign materials at the last minute.

Reading these and similar stories may make you question changing your logo. After all, everyone knows it, right? A logo is generally closely associated with the organization, however sometimes a change in your brand mark is necessary. Over time, organizations may change and logos can become stale, look dated or have too many variations Start with research to determine if you need to replace the brand mark with something that is truly representative of the organization as it exists today. To be successful you must start by engaging the key stakeholder groups early in the process.

Adjustment or Overhaul?

Old university logo

Old university logo

New university brand mark with stair-step icon tested across multiple stakeholder groups

New university brand mark with stair-step icon tested across multiple stakeholder groups

Sometimes organizations believe they need a complete brand overhaul when an adjustment will suffice. The brand mark may actually be fine or need a small tweak (i.e., an updated font or fresh tagline) or the brand message points may need to be made more relevant and customized for each stakeholder group. In other situations, a new brand mark may be warranted. The trick is to find out how much of a change is needed.

Do the Research

The best advice we can give anyone looking at rebranding is to do your research. vitalink typically includes multiple stakeholder groups in the research phase of any brand evaluation.  As an example, for a university, this may include students, prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff, local business leaders and community leaders.  It is important to identify how stakeholders see the organization today and compare that to how the organization represents itself through its brand. The areas where there is agreement are the “sweet spots” or strengths. Where there are significant differences is where the brand is out of alignment. The new logo should represent the organization as it truly is, and the marketing group in charge of the project should make every effort to include stakeholders from day one and get buy-in throughout the process, up to and including the new brand rollout. Click to learn more about brand (re)vitalization.

Need help with your rebranding efforts? Email us or call us at 919.850.0605.