One thing we have learned in researching business-to-business brands is, when it comes to changing your logo, proceed with caution.
It is surprising how often marketers feel the need to mess with their logos. Perhaps it is a sign of power or boredom to want to change something that has become a recognition symbol, and on which a considerable amount of effort has been spent to ensure that it is instantly recognizable. Logos do change over time and so they should. There is a need to modernize and this is usually done subtly; sometimes quite indiscernible to the casual viewer.
The original Starbucks logo was a twin tailed mermaid based on a sixteenth century Norse woodcut. The mermaid was topless and in the second version her breasts were covered by her flowing hair. In 2011, to fit the company’s broadening product range and its international spread of coffee houses, the logo changed yet again, this time dropping the Starbucks name and the word coffee since by now both were considered unnecessary. In essence, the new visual was still readily identifiable with the company.
So why, if we know the importance of maintaining the legacy of a logo, did B2B International decide last year to abandon its 15-year-old blue and orange logo for something new?
We didn’t have to do it. However, one or two anecdotal criticisms of our logo hinted that the $100 that we paid for its construction many moons ago might have left a bit to be desired. But we simply weren’t sure. The agency that we had recruited to help us strengthen our brand position argued that we needed a new logo but that didn’t surprise us since there is nothing a design agency loves more than a logo redesign.
They put forward a few contenders, some dramatically different to the legacy logo. We decided that if we were to have a different logo it had to have a semblance of continuity, which boiled down to four possibilities. These were as follows in Logo 2 through 5 (logo 1 is the legacy logo):
All the logos maintained the second B in reverse. This was thought to be important on the grounds that it was a link with the past as a metaphor for one business speaking to another – in other words, our business of market research. Two of the new designs kept orange and two left it behind.
As researchers, we were honor bound to test the logos to see which our target audience preferred. We selected a sample of 100 buyers of b2b market research spread between the UK and the US, and designed a questionnaire to test whether people thought the logos were interesting/boring, dated/modern, premium/value for money. We tested them in terms of their impact, and attractiveness. We tested word associations with each logo and finally we asked respondents to put them in rank order of preference. The interviews were carried out online so that people could see the logos and in a randomized fashion.
Two of the logos came out on top – logo number 1 (our legacy logo) and logo number 4 (what we came to refer to as the “blue box” logo). Each had its strengths and weaknesses. Logo number 1 was preferred by those who had an awareness of B2B International. Logo number 4 was preferred by a younger age group. Logo number 4 had a strong appeal with those looking for insights from their market research agency and those seeking a specialist in business-to-business market research. The blue box logo was the most different of the new designs to the legacy logo and we decided to take the big jump and go for it, on the basis that it symbolized change and indeed our company was changing as we were rapidly opening more offices overseas.
Six months after the rebrand, how would we judge the results? The first thing to say is that our revenue has continued to grow much as it did before. The phone never got hot with annoyed clients asking why we had made the change. In fact, life pretty well carried on as before. Most people were polite in saying that they liked our rebrand although no one was gushing in their praise.
We conclude that, as with any brand repositioning, it takes time for the change to have an effect. In addition to the change in the logo, we had introduced a new strapline – Beyond Knowledge – intended to signify the value added which we hope and believe our target audience is looking for. Our aim is to provide not just data, not just insights and not just good intelligence, but a path of action which we can deliver with our many years of experience.
The logo change was risky but we minimized that with research that reassured us there would be no backlash. Quite probably if we had maintained our legacy logo it would have been the dog that never barked – we would have continued happily on with no adverse repercussions. The logo change has been noticed and moreover it motivated our staff and in that sense helped our repositioning. Let’s see if the new logo will last another 15 years.