Logos are closely associated with the brand they represent and allow a business to communicate through a single image or sound.  If customers feel positively about the brand, they will have positive feelings when they see the logo – and vice versa.

When it comes to retooling a logo, care must be taken so that any ground gained from the current logo isn’t lost.  When a company changes its logo, it’s usually fairly modest.  Extreme changes might confuse customers who are used to shopping by sight, looking for the familiar logos they love.  This happened to Tropicana when it redesigned its packaging.  Attempting to look modern and simple, Tropicana instead transformed itself into a generic brand and lost customers who were looking for the famous orange-with-a-straw on the carton.  According to AdAge.com, sales plummeted 20% after the new design was launched.

[Tropi-who? Customers weren’t buying the new packaging. Image from AdAge.com]

Apple has changed its logo over the years – but has always kept its famous silhouette.   Technically, the first Apple logo was an intricate drawing of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree with a book – but it was used for less than one year.  When Apple hired a graphic designer to create a new logo, the apple silhouette was born – and sales took off.  This first version of the apple silhouette featured a rainbow stripe, which made great marketing sense because Apple was touting its color displays.  The next version of the logo kept the shape, but used a monochrome color.  Finally, the current version has been updated once again to evoke shiny chrome, giving it a modern, sleek feel.  It’s no surprise that consumers the world over associate a freshly bitten apple with Apple, Inc.

[Take a byte out of Apple: logos over the years.  Image from instantshift.com ]

Another example of bad logo-redesign occurred last fall, when the Gap quietly introduced a new one.  The reaction in industry circles and on social networking sites was swift and harsh.  Brandchannel said, “After dominating the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gap has dropped its iconic logo in favor of something that looks like it cost $17 from an old Microsoft Word clipart gallery,”  Within days, Gap publically announced on its Facebook page, “Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback,” — and with that, Gap returned to the tried-and-true logo everyone loved.

[Mind the Gap: The new logo fell flat.  Image from The Guardian]

Logos are most often considered images, but they can also be sounds.  This is called “sound branding” or “music branding”.  Just as commercial jingles are catchy, sounds create dynamic memories, too.  They can be extremely useful when it comes to augmenting a brand’s identity.

One of the most recognizable auditory logos is NBC’s chimes.  This was the first sound to be designated an audio trademark by the U.S. Patent Office. This happened in 1950, although NBC had been using the chimes since the late 1920s.

[NBC’s chimes.  Image from nbcchimes.info]

Anyone who’s turned on a PC in the last decade has heard this from Windows XP.  And, of course, this sound is synonymous with Intel.  It’s even been recorded by the Intel Singers.

The thought and care that goes into composing an auditory logo is immense.  Intel’s was composed by Walter Werzowa, a contemporary classical musician considered a master of audio branding.  It is estimated that Intel’s “bong” sound is played somewhere in the world at least once every 5 minutes.  In 1994, Microsoft asked famed-producer Brian Eno to compose the music that would be played when Windows 95 started.  He described the experience to the San Francisco Chronicle: “The thing from the agency said, ‘We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,’ this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said ‘and it must be 31/4 seconds long.’  I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.”

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