Posted on October 17, 2013

Evolution versus Revolution – logos, names, hearts and minds

By Neale Gilhooley of Evolution Design. On 17th October 2013 it was announced in that “German electronics and electrical engineering company, formerly known as Siemens, has changed its name to Unify.” This was announced by the re-branding agency from Ottawa. Odd that the Siemens global site did not mention this anywhere and seem oblivious to this fundamental name change. siemens-300x202But the real story is why you would take all that brand equity built up and earned over decades and decide that you need to start completely afresh. If only we could see the research or hear the conversations that led to this. Generally we say that design evolution should be tried before design revolution is applied, but in this case to actually change the globally recognised company name seems a bit excessive, rash even. Not something usually accused of German companies with 165 years of commercial and scientific history, a global market capitalisation of 2.6 trillion Euros and 370,000 employees. Not to mention the products and customers and distributors, etc. Just think of all of the changes needed to implement and trademarking – it is a small industry in itself. Here is what did the design company say of the new name and logo for Unify. Unify1-300x171Such a radical unrecognisable change that they even include their old name below as a safety net. On the left is the new logo with rationale: On a dark gray background, Unify’s logo features the letters of its name colored white, but with the letter “I” standing out in yellow and green hues. The Unify logo is the primary visual representation of the new brand. At the center of the logo is a vibrant, single ‘I’, representing the concept of unification – bringing the many into one. The energy given off by this ‘I’ symbolizes the power of collective energy. The ‘I’ also represents the individual, employee or end user who is empowered by Unify technology,” said designer McMillan, adding “Unify is a light-emitting brand, and charcoal provides a dramatic backdrop for light. Green and yellow hues come together to become an illuminated beacon. Charcoal communicates seriousness, precision, and the sleek characteristics of a luxury brand. Unify Green has reflective properties that give an impression of light when set against the dark contrast of Unify Charcoal. It communicates energy, optimism and focus.” That’s quite an explanation, justification even, although no mention of the company or it’s products they are just referred to as a ‘luxury brand‘, – is this a case of mistaken identity, another Siemens perhaps but no, many of their services are not glowing emissions of light but rather more industrial in application and heritage. The proof is often in the long term so it will be fascinating to watch how they build this logo into the brand that was Siemens and where they intend this brand to lead them. See more Unify images here on What do you think of Siemens’ re-brand? Siemens are soon to be added to a long line of companies that have created new brand names and built them into successful global brands. However a few do fall at the first hurdle and just do not win hearts and mind, they wreck the brand value, confuse customers and let their competitors have a field day and commercial suicide is committed. Here are a selection of company or brand names that have been ditched alongside the new creations. In many cases the new names has yet to be fully established. Don’t be too surprised if you had not heard of some of them. yello-and-hibuIn May 2012 Yellow Pages owner Yell surprised the City by announcing that it is renaming itself Hibü. The chief executive Mike Pocock said it was necessary because Yell had low awareness online (really?) he admitted Hibu pronounced “high-boo” did not mean anything. “It’s a word,” he said. “If you go back 15 to 20 years, Google and Yahoo didn’t mean anything. It’s how you support the brands.” Wise words as shares in Yell plunged 24 per cent or 0.75p to 2.41p. A statement from Yell says, “Communities are built on the connections people make and people are connected at the heart of the hibu logo. The identity utilises typography with soft shouldered edges like the human body and coloured dots represent the people behind the identity, diversity, connections and conversation. By using bold lower-case typography with soft edges we project a human and approachable company”. One fundamental issue with all lower case logos is that no one quite knows how to spell the company name; Hibu or hibu often both in the same sentence. It also has a double dot above the ü (dieresis) add distinctiveness but do not add clarity as to pronunciation, perhaps the opposite, it looks foreign to English speakers. Thanks to the Independent for the stock market figures. Meanwhile to further confuse, Yellow Pages will remain as a print brand. News indeed today by coincidence – Oct 17 (Reuters) – Lender-owned Hibu Plc said its chief executive, chairman and non-executive directors would step down, a new chief executive had not yet been appointed to take the reins from Mike Pocock. Put another way “Yell admits rebrand is meaningless as it chalks up £1.4bn loss” headline from The Telegraph. Not all due to the re-branding of course, will the accounts also include a material write down on the value of the brand, or damage done to it. EE-new-logo-and-orange-t-mobile-300x225In 2010 Orange and T-mobile were merged but rather than also merging into one single brand name they chose to create a new name EE to sit that above the other brand names which still continue. With higher spenders data hungry 4G users (hopefully) directed toward EE and then mid market spenders stating with or being diverted to Orange and the lower end users being T-mobile, or not. This is still very much in transition and is supported by a huge ad spend budget faced by Kevin Bacon. FK-225x300Earlier this month saw possibly the most contentious name change. Yet to appear in the UK, but announced in the homeland of the burger that iconic Burger King are set to be renamed as Fries King. How to lower taste expectations? Fries or chips as we call them will take over. This seems bizarre beyond belief and must be seen as a gift from above by McDonalds as who chooses between fast food outlets based on one of the side dishes? Who is hungry for fries/chips and then chooses the burger or southern chicken main ingredient of the meal as an after thought? Well not me of course. Generations of hard fought consumer recognition and brand equity dumped and at huge cost too. See more Fries King images and store fronts on Do you have any other examples of name-changing winners or losers? read more: on refreshing your logo with Big Oil case studies from Hampshire based Brand Glue

images of old Guinness product marketingFor a light look at some of the iconic images created by Guinness marketing see this 3 minute video looking at the first 200 years of > Guinness brand advertising & marketing