By Rob Thomas
Out with the old, in with the new. The new broom sweeps clean. Time for a change of the guard.
Use whatever cliché you might like – but is it really a good idea to change logos?
The scenario usually plays out like this. Dog Centre (with apologies to our beautiful furry canine friends) continues to lose market share, because Big Star Centre has opened just down the road. Dog Centre’s owners have waited far too long to ascertain the shift in market, and a new savvier developer has come along and offered shoppers something better – and of course, because everyone has brand loyalty, and has been shopping at Dog Centre for years, they stick around and shun new Big Star Centre, right? Wrong. They make a beeline for the door and drive away.
Perplexed, Dog Centre’s knee-jerk reaction is a window dressing response – let’s ‘reposition’ the brand by creating a new logo, which is deftly applied to the outside of the decaying building, and is used in a full-page spread in the local newspaper. A few people trickle back in, but overall, the campaign is a disaster. People are not stupid, and as one branding theorist once said, this is akin to putting lipstick on a pig (again, with respect to our oinker friends).
Owner has been duped by Glam Marketing Consultant, who walks away with a cheque, while Dog Centre is still, well, a dog. Or maybe Glam Marketing told owner, “Listen, your centre needs a re-think,” and owner was feeling somewhat impecunious at the time and said no.
Or maybe the scenario plays out like this. Cash Cow Centre has seen the writing on the wall, and knows that the 10-year brisk trading run is over and a refurb is on the cards, if it hopes to stave off market share attrition and remain well-patronised. Duly diligent, the owners commit the resources to a full revamp and maybe even an extension. In anticipation of all things new, it is decided – either by the marketing team/consultant, or the owner(s), or both – that the new centre needs a new logo. It’s a justifiable time to change – in the frenzy of creating a new-look centre, the feeling is that it also needs a new-look logo.
Glam Marketing, unaware of marketing theory (or maybe in spite of it) decides to change the logo, and suggests same to owners, under the guise of “It’s time for a change.” Or maybe owner says to Glam Marketing, “You have to change it,” despite their protestations to the contrary.
Let’s look at Westfield – arguably the strongest shopping centre brand in the world. Such is the prestige and reputation associated with the master brand that every Westfield centre uses the corporate brand to identify the owner, followed by the centre name. Thus Westfield Carousel is a major centre located in Perth, Westfield Miranda is in Sydney, Westfield London is in the British capital, and Westfield World Trade Centre is in New York.
Tellingly, perhaps, the Westfield logo, which has been in existence since 1966, has never been changed – and it is ugly as sin. But like Coke, it has a retro ‘coolness’ to it – and one has to wonder why such a strong shopping centre master brand has never fussed with their logo.
Additionally, in 2014 Westfield was restructured into two new companies, the Westfield Corporation to oversee Westfield centres in the US and Europe, and Scentre Group to oversee centres in Australia and New Zealand. Despite this, centres under Scentre Group will retain their Westfield branding, no doubt because the powers-that-be know not to mess with a strong brand and its logo.
Let’s also look at best practice outside the shopping centre industry for further inspiration. Coke, arguably the biggest brand in the world in terms of brand equity, has used their logo for 100 years, give or take, as have BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Coco Chanel. Disney is very consistent in the use of their logo, with the wordmark (not actually a font) being iconic of Walt Disney’s signature. Google, arguably the biggest brand in the world in terms of market capitalisation, has changed the font of their logo, but the colours remain the same – this is even carried through to the piping in their head office building. Google occasionally ‘messes’ with the logo to create a doodle to mark a significant world event or moment in history, but the word always spells out ‘Google.’ Apple’s bite logo has changed colour from the gaudy multiple colours of the 70s to the monochrome colour of today – but the bitten apple remains.
The same consistent, clear and therefore compelling communication of which Philip Kotler, professor of marketing at Northwestern University, speaks, does not always apply to the shopping centre industry.
A major Johannesburg centre has had three different logos in its 25-year history. Another did away with its iconic logo that had been in use for 30 years. Yet another had 2 logos in use at the same time (and the older one was in use for almost 40 years).
Another is still using, to this very day, its old and new logos at the same time, in the same space. The email signature of the former CEO of a major owner of some of the country’s largest centres still sported the old logos of seven of its eight centres, long after they had been changed. Do customers really care, you may ask, and has it made even the slightest impact on KPIs? Maybe not. But is it world-class, and is it best practice? Perhaps it is time to don a bracelet around the wrist with the letters WWWD – what would Westfield do?
In consumer behaviour speak, combining theories of marketing and psychology, it is purported that learning takes place after 3 repetitions, so then the 3-exposure hypothesis holds water – that after 3 exposures, the consumer has learnt about the visual portion of the brand, and now associates with it.
But imagine a brand that has had 30,000 exposures, or even 100,000. The old adage goes, “When can a brand name stand on its own? When it’s been around for 100 years, or it has spent a billion dollars on marketing.” Why undo that with a whimsical change?
This article will be concluded in next month’s issue of Shopping & Retail SA.
Acknowledgement: With thanks to the Boston Consulting Group for use of their matrix descriptors.
Marketing consultant Rob Thomas is a Certified Marketing Director with the International Council of Shopping Centres, and is busy with his PhD in strategic marketing. His company, Eureka, does research and strategic marketing for shopping centres. He can be contacted on email@example.com.