Logo redesign? No thanks.

The story of the noodle soup

I think there are a few things in our lives which we believe that are perfect just the way they are. Like my mom’s noodle soup. I have never eaten a more perfect noodle soup than my mom’s. I have tried many noodle soups in my life, even the ones made by myself. Not even one came close to the perfection of my mom’s.

One day, though, not having the usual homemade perfect noodles at hand, mom used angel hair pasta ( I mean really? How did they come up with this name: “angel hair” pasta? To me finding hair in my food, be it of angelic origin is the most disgusting thing ever.) from the store as a substitute. Imagine the tragedy, the betrayal I felt when eating that soup. The soup looked almost the same but it was a totally different thing. I ate it because I was “hangry” but the child in me protested and fantasied having a tantrum, one that involved throwing the soup to the ground and stomping it with both feet. Fortunately the adult in me intervened censoring all these feelings repeating over and over again: “It is not the end of the world. It is not the end of the world.” I couldn’t help the feeling, though, that it really was the end of the world…

The logo redesign - presumptions

What would you feel like if someone decided that something you believe it is perfect just the way it is needs to be changed? Would it feel as if it was the end of the world to you, especially if you don’t have a say in it?

According to research, that’s what it feels like to a committed consumer when a logo redesign of their favorite brand occurs. Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing at Smeal, and researchers Michael Walsh of West Virginia University and Vikas Mittal of Rice University examined the reaction of consumers to logo redesign a few years ago.

The findings came against the presumptions of most companies that their loyal customers - those having a strong brand commitment - will be more accommodating to changes. Actually the consumers who are strongly committed to a brand tend to react more negatively toward new logos causing them to have a lower attitude toward the brand.

It was not the case with the more casual customers. These typically view the redesigns as a positive development.

Some brands gain much of their strength from consumers who feel a personal connection to the brand. However, it's these same passionate brand fans who react negatively to logo changes like it was the case of Starbucks, that took to social networking websites to express their negative feelings about the change.

The truth revealed

In their research, Winterich and her colleagues examined how 632 students responded to logo redesigns for Adidas and New Balance shoes. A professional graphic designer made two new versions of each brand's logo, one slightly modified from the original and the second one considerably more so.

They surveyed participants about their brand commitment and attitude after viewing the original logo and then again after viewing one of the redesigns. The results showed that brand attitudes decreased for those strongly committed to the brand and increased for the the weakly committed.

Now let’s stop here and think about noodle soup versus angel hair soup. Guess what will I do next time when my mom will try to feed me angel hair soup telling me that actually I am having noodle soup?

Na-ah, I’m not gonna buy it. First I would question if that is my mom, right there, trying to trick me into accepting such a change. The devil in disguise selling me angel hair?!! OMG. Not gonna happen.

Do you get it? Do you feel these surveyed strongly-committed-to-the brand guys? I mean, yeah, it kinda, sorta looks like the real thing, but it is no longer the brand that they came to love and to show off with. It is a total turn off. They will not go out wearing something resembling the real thing. It would be like deciding to wear a cheap copycat brand and that would not do.

The researchers believe that committed brand enthusiasts view the logo changes as threatening to their relationship with the brand.

But, my third cousin on my mother’s side (whom we barely see) does not mind the angel hair instead of noodle. He might not even notice the difference and that is because he does not have a personal relationship with my mother’s noodle soup like I do. He does not love noodle soup like I do. So he might even like angel hair soup.

Same with the not so attached to the brand customers. They will not mind changes to the visual representation of the brand they do not consume from too often. They might even start liking the brand more after the makeover.

"Those with strong brand commitment will see the original brand logo -- and the associations -- as representing themselves and the integral relationship they have with the brand," the researchers write. "They are likely to view a change in the logo, which affects these associations, as threatening their self-brand connections and relationships. Consequently, such consumers will be negatively disposed to the logo change and likely to evaluate the logo negatively.”

Recommendations on logo redesign

Winterich and her co-authors suggest that companies take a more subtle approach to logo redesign. They recommend soliciting input about the redesign from the brand's most committed consumers and perhaps even notifying them before the changes are revealed to the broader public. "Giving the strongly committed such a feeling of being an 'insider' may strengthen their self-brand connection and mitigate the potentially negative effects of logo redesign," they write.

Their study, "Do Logo Redesigns Help or Hurt Your Brand? The Role of Brand Commitment," was published in 2010 in the Journal of Product & Brand Management.