The world is full of mega brands that dominate the media. When you consider all the brands you see online, in the press, on TV, billboards, bus stops – and of course printed on the products we already own – you soon see how long the list is. They’re so recognisable and prevalent that we all know who they are.
Their logos and even their messaging have become so embedded in our subconscious that we can quite soon reel off the brand behind famous slogans and taglines. From ‘I’m lovin’ it’ to ‘Just do it’ and ‘The king of beers’, we don’t even have to say which brands these words belong to – chances are you already know.
But beyond these mega brands, there many other brand logos that are more targeted and niche – they are just as dominant, but in particular spaces. For example, cycling fans will recognise the Specialized logo (a big ‘S’) from a thousand paces away, and the World Wildlife Fund (a panda bear).
Communicating brand values
For brands to operate and succeed in the global market, they have to be familiar to customers. New brands fight hard to create a logo that truly represents them and, on the whole, the old brands develop their logos to perform the same function – to communicate what a company stands for.
While it’s easy for a company to suggest what its values are in meaningful statements, they have to deliver on their promises. In short, their story has to be believed.
As Mark Truby, VP of the Ford Motor Company said: “A good story makes you feel something and is universal. They want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence; be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.”
Customers have growing demands and are astute at spotting when a company is being dishonest. Just look at the outcry from Brewdog’s Pink IPA launch. If customers don’t believe a company is representing itself correctly, or it’s not delivering what they want, they will walk away. And when this happens, it can be very tough for companies to survive. That’s what makes brand values, which convey in a transparent way what a company stands for, are so important.
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, said about branding: “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
So that’s why brand logos are important – now let’s look at how they were developed.
One global brand that has developed its logo over time (although we may not even have noticed the changes) is Kodak. The original branding for the company which started in 1880, wasn’t particularly memorable and appeared in 1907 with the letters ‘E’, ‘K’, and ‘C’ (Eastman Kodak Company). In 1935 the recognisable red ‘Kodak’ on the yellow background appeared. In the 1960s this was changed to a short-lived corner curl design before, in 1971, they developed the famous red ‘K’ symbol. This wasn’t dropped until 2006 when a simplified red ‘Kodak’ was presented to the world. The single word logo didn’t last long, however, as the company went bankrupt in 2012. When it re-emerged in 2013, it resurrected the old red ‘K’ from 1971, and the name was set vertically in it. We all remembered that logo, and they knew the importance of showing that the ‘new’ company as being very much part of its illustrious past.
As one of the world’s leading producers of oil products (petrol and diesel for our motors), Shell is another company that developed its logo over the past century. Originally a British company but now part of the Royal Dutch Shell Company (part British and part Dutch) the use of the simple red and yellow shell logo with the word ‘Shell’ in the middle appeared around 1915 and, since then, has constantly been refined simplified but has remained true to its essence. The company now rarely uses the word at all as the logo is strong enough on its own. Interestingly the logo uses the same colours (red and yellow) as both Kodak and McDonald’s.
McDonald’s has been lovin’ it since the 1940s
Here’s another red and yellow logo, but it began life very differently. A simple sketch of a chef in black and white was the original iteration of a logo in 1940. The arches appeared in 1952 when they were painted on the side of the McDonald’s building in San Bernardina, California. When new owner Ray Croc bought the company in 1961, he added the arches into a new corporate design. By the 1970s the arches were an established part of the brand. There have been several updates of the arches since the 1970s, but they have largely been mere simplifications.
Another perhaps less-known company, but one occupying a very strong position in its market, is Wink Bingo. The company recently underwent a re-branding exercise to refresh its website using pop art styling with bright, friendly colours and comic text headers. As well as providing bingo games for customers, Wink Bingo is also home to a vibrant community of gamers – summed up by the tagline ‘Wink if you’re in’.
This new look and feel appears familiar, recognisable and striking – which is part of the reason it’s one of the most successful bingo brands in the UK.
Brands are so powerful that they can sometimes outlive the companies they represent. Think of Panam, which hasn’t flown a plane for over 20 years, and Polaroid, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001. This reminds us that staying fresh and relevant as a brand is as important as developing the product in the first place.