SALT LAKE CITY — Sears rolled out a new logo this week accompanied by the tagline “Making moments matter.”
Trading in its previous text-only logo, Sears’ new look debuted a blue icon meant to represent heart and home.
The logo is part of a fresh focus the company has planned this month, opening three new Sears Home & Life stores that will sell mattresses, appliances and home-related services.
According to USA Today, Sears has closed “more than 3500 stores and cut about 250,000 jobs” in the past 15 years, leading the troubled retailer to file for bankruptcy last fall.
In the beleaguered company’s attempt to reinvent itself, however, the question for it — and for all pivoting firms — is whether rebranding via a new logo really benefits the company, and how.
In today’s television industry, Adweek reports that channel logos can be literal channel changers as they help consumers choose what they want to watch quickly and with the ease of a logo click. Additionally, 81 percent of viewers “perceive the same content as more interesting and current when channel logos are present.”
And not only do consumers recognize logos, they develop relationships of trust with companies as a result of them, even if those companies aren’t related to the logos they display.
Researchers at Brigham Young University and Virginia Tech found that users quickly trusts an unfamiliar website if they see a credible third-party’s logo on it. They also found that web designers can influence this perception of credibility by making the logos immediately visible.
The images themselves matter, too, however. And because firms want an unmistakable image, they rely on designers to deliver something unique. When designers fail to be wholly original, and logo similarities link a drug store chain to a Major League baseball team, for example, the ensuing brand confusion can cost a company everything from customers to fans, as Washington, D.C.-area radio station WAMU reports.
The fashion industry, however, is taking a different tack to logo similarity as fashion houses like Burberry and Balenciaga trade in their storied and elaborate emblems for plainer images. This is for trademark purposes, according to Quartz.
“By making the plain language of a logo — the name or word — the basis for a trademark, instead of a unique font or color in combination with a specific word or name, brands may be better able to protect their intellectual property,” Quartz reported. This move allows the logo's disctinctivess to "rest on the word(s) rather than any stylization of those words,” intellectual property lawyer Birgit Clark told The Fashion Law.
Quartz’s report also offers an alternative explanation for this logo approach: High fashion is becoming less creative and more corporate — a possibility for any company.
“Today many different design houses are often joined under a single corporate roof, like the behemoth LVMH, which owns 70 fashion brands. … This may be, perhaps unconsciously, contributing to ‘blanding.’”
Despite this "blanding," Lee Frederiksen, former professor at Virginia Tech, writes in Hinge Marketing that rebranding is something a firm does when it wants to alter the way it looks to consumers.
“It could be as simple as the merger of two firms or as complex as a major shift in target clients or business strategy,” Frederiksen wrote.
Whatever the reasoning, creating a new logo can be an expensive undertaking.
Oil giant BP, for example, redesigned its shield into a green flower in a bid for a more favorable image. The price tag? $211 million, according to Business Insider, which also notes the continued negative associations the public holds about big oil companies.
More recently, the University of South Florida unveiled a new logo that was met with enough criticism from students and alumni that the school modified the design — twice — before finally settling on a logo long-used by the athletics department.
WFTS Tampa Bay reports the logo change will cost the university almost $1 million, including $47,000 to create the logo and nearly half a million dollars in promotional campaign costs.5 comments on this story
While a new logo can be an important part of a company’s marketing strategy, Seth Godin, author and former business executive, states that a logo alone isn’t sufficient to change consumer minds about a firm:
“The art of picking a logo … has almost nothing to do with taste or back story. A great logo doesn’t mean anything until the brand makes it worth something.”
Godin says it’s the company’s actions that can change its outcomes, calling a logo a “reminder of (a company’s) brand … and a stand-in for how (consumers) think and feel about what (a company) does.”