“Brand” New

08 September 2013

Recently, I came across a puzzled comment by the creative director of a London-based studio SomeOne, Simon Manchipp, whom tweeted the following; "logos are dead… They are a hangover from old-school thinking about branding. There is no desire by the public for a new logo.

They are simply an old-fashioned approach to differentiating products or services". Considering that visual branding is my area of interest, you might be surprised to read that I certainly agree logos have lost some of their charm. Indeed logos are a critical factor of a coherent brand strategy, though here's the thing, as companies shift from more traditional models of communication to the new, a single visual identity becomes less essential. Technological improvements allowing for greater consumer interaction on various platforms has brought upon the new way of branding, which will be leading a trend towards emotional branding strategies, encompassing everything from corporate behaviour, tone of voice, consumer experience to environments and product design. In turn, this has led to the diminishing significance of the logo in the game of now multiple players.

Many businesses assume that a corporate identity consists of a visual device that is used to identify all the company's visual expressions. This visual device is normally seen as the essential and most important element in a corporate design structure, which often includes a typeface, colour palette, design standards for layout style, stationery, symbols, imagery, etc. These visual design principles are then collected together in the form of a design guideline, and once a company has implemented as far as possible the recommendations contained within the guide, it is set to have acquired a new corporate identity.

However, branding does not stop at the logo on the letterhead, the sign over the door or the badge on the product. John Lloyd, co-founded the international design consultancy Lloyd Northover, points out that the strength of a brand is measured by what people think of the organisation as a whole, not just by what they think of its visual representation. He states, "There are so many things, from the quality of products and services, the ease of use and clarity of brochures and web sites, the design of the premises in which the company conducts its business, to the way you are personally treated, that determine your feelings about a company". In essence companies project their corporate attitudes through everything they do and everything they produce. This has led to calls for "brand worlds", which alludes to an identity experience that is created across the entire spectrum of media.

Take for example the recent rebrand of the telecommunications company Optus. The provider has introduced innovations and improvements to their products, services and network, in line with the development of the new identity; at its core is the embracing of an emotional, corresponding tone of voice. It's true corporate identity is the sum total of all the impressions it conveys to all its audiences. Optus' corporate image will be influenced more by the way telephones are answered, the performance and reliability of it's products and the quality of after sales service than it will by the logo on their packaged products and shop fronts. In other words, if all this is got right there will be a far greater shift in the perception of the company then what could possibly be achieved by only a new visual identity.

We are seeing this new way of "emotional" branding been undertaken by large companies, with a whole new range of brand elements that go beyond graphic identities. Many have shifted from advertising products to sharing a story, through tone and experiences, which go beyond colour, typography and product. In fact, many large brands have created culture and lifestyles. With this in mind, it is fair to say that there are more effective ways of adding emotion to a brand than by a visual identity. Perhaps this is what Simon Manchipp meant when he said "logos are dead".

It is very likely we are going to see a trend with smaller companies starting to embrace new platforms of consumer interaction, distancing themselves from previously established branding models, which are no longer relevant. In a fast moving world all businesses need to adapt, and so must their brand. Similar to large business, small business will take upon new branding, which essentially is about connecting people to brands and brands to people.

A brand is continuously evolving, and it is not a static visual identity. A logo can help to identify a brand, but in a fast-moving world it is becoming one of many elements a business needs if it's to connect and interact with its consumer and broader environment. So while initial "logos are dead" quote might be over the top, it does raise an interesting debate. Logos are not dead, but they have lost their significance in the new branding model. And this is hitting home, as the actions of the large businesses ultimately start to filter down to smaller companies. Ultimately logos will only die when they are part of a fixed system that cannot respond to a changing world. I think logos are necessary but they certainly will be for a time to come, but they just don't hold the place they once did. Jason Little, creative behind the Optus rebrand said, "the logo isn't dead, it's just irrelevant". I couldn't agree more.