Manchester City recently announced, after a consultation period with their fans, that they were changing their club crest to reflect City’s global presence and match the circular designs of their partner clubs Melbourne City and New York City. However, they are thinking about their fans, and lifeblood, on this journey of change. They are considering offering diehard fans who had tattooed the crest onto their body a free laser tattoo removal to eradicate the old logo.
This got me thinking. Showing your passion and commitment for your favourite club or brand by literally having yourself branded, like the Egyptians marked ownership of their cattle back in the day, is the ultimate show of fandom, but should you expect a logo to be permanent and last forever?
Are you being foolish and short-termist or is there some hope that your permanent branding and commitment to the cause will last forever and you will be flying the current flag? Should you expect a logo to remain intact and never change, or should it always change with the times and fashions, reflecting the changing offerings of the brand? Is there still a place for a logo now that brand worlds and experiences take the interaction with brands into a new space and level of sensory engagement?
So are there any brands that have managed to have an unchanged logo throughout their history? Nike has had pretty much the same swoosh icon since 1971, and BMW has used the same logo roundel since 1917 having minor refinements over the years. Coke, baring a few diversions in the 70’s, has pretty much the same logotype that it had in 1890. All three of these global brands have obviously relied on brand systems and campaigns that have supported the logo and have flexed with fashion and their audiences to stay relevant and essential.
What about the brands that constantly change their logos? Why do they need to do it? Consumer brands need to follow fashions and keep up with changing consumer behaviours and preferences. For example Urban Outfitters completely rebrands itself every six months or so from logo, to bags, to point of sale to the store environment to mainatin an exciting experience. This immediacy is fresh and current and makes it feels relevant and responsive. In the food sector LEON restaurants have a different logo for each outlet, each having a different stylistic take on the original logotype, which makes every restaurant feel local and unique and deliberately not like a bland soulless chain.
Sometimes change needs to happen for practical reasons. The BBC chose to rationalise all their brands in 1997 and to save on print costs, and Google recently adapted their logotype to be better suited for small screen use. Brands and their logos also evolve over time, for example Apple, Ford, and Budweiser, tweaking elements to stay relevant. Much like the Christian crucifix which has stood the test of time in it’s basic form and it’s many variations. Alternatively brands can have change forced on them through aquisitions and mergers.
There has been discussion that the logo is dead and brand worlds being all important, but all those proponents have realised that there is always a need for a shorthand for the brand in limited spaces, especially in social media and online. You still need a simple iconic symbol on Twitter or Facebook. Often this is the way people will experience a brand first.
So on balance it's optimistic to assume a logo will stay untouched forever. If you hit the holy grail of a simple mark and typeface that typifies the brand and have an engaging brand concept and expression it will have a chance at longevity. The aim is to boil down the essence of the brand and make it an indication of what’s on offer, that’s relatable and understandable. Also it’s prudent not be a slave to fashion, as the old adage goes: fashion fades, ideas are forever. Then concentrate on getting your other visual and verbal brand assets to kick into action and grab your audience where it tickles them most.
So for those who take Manchester City's offer up and don’t want to hold onto the permanent memories of the good old days of struggle and strife, I hope the laser removal is successful. It will be interesting to see how many have the new crest indelibly inked onto them, however long it may last!