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Are Brands Becoming Too Basic?

When you run a branding studio you have to be comfortable with a few things. People immediately asking you what you think of their logo when you meet them and random texts and emails from your friends and family each time their beloved brands gets a refresh.

I got one recently from my best friend who, God bless his soul, is still stuck in the 90’s; Jean shorts, leather jackets and all.

Old Left / New Right

His caption: “worst rebrand ever.” He then went on to call Rayovac some nasty names and continued on a rant about how he hated that all brands seem to be stripping away all of their character with these new logo updates.

Respectfully, I disagreed.

See, my friend suffers from the common mindset that more is always better. To the conscious logical mind, complexity means quality. Like an intriguing puzzle, something that has to be figured out must be better, since there was a little bit of work involved.

On the other hand, the subconscious primal part of the brain prefers familiarity. The less deciphering it has to do, the more it trusts what it’s perceiving. This is why in today’s world of sensory overload, simple is always better.

However, that’s not the only reason these brands are simplifying. The biggest push for simplicity comes as a result of the way consumers shop and interact with their favorite brands.

Just 20 years ago, the most prominent place a logo would be seen was the sign on a building, with letters at least one to two feet tall. On printed materials, logo renditions were easy to set in stone the moment ink hit paper.

Even as recently as 10 years ago, you could rely on consumers viewing your online brand on a relatively large desktop screen. However, in today’s mobile and digital world, there are now hundreds of platforms and screen sizes that a brand must adapt to.

For instance, if your brand is a mobile application, the brand mark must be recognizable in sizes such as a mobile app icon or a social media avatar. These icons are typically 32 pixels square, which is less than the size of a dime.

Consider even the tiny favicon, short for “favorite icon,” that lives in your browser next to the URL web address of the sites you visit. The best-designed logos are recognizable even at this size.

Let’s go back to the Rayovac example above: The new RAYOVAC lettering still has its signature italic rotation and its unique letter spacing, but now touts a noticeably thinner typeface. Further, it has lost the pointless black outline around the name. This allows the mark to live in a single color against any background, and easily be recognized even if it’s only black and white.

Best of all is the update to their signature icon, the lighting bolt O. Before, it was smashed against the Y and the V which makes it difficult to use as a standalone brand mark. This new brand’s more open letter spacing allows the Lighting O to be both part of the word, and separate it out as the brand’s signature on social profiles and other various digital outputs where size is limited.

We must remember that brands are not meant to be static. The world around us is ever- changing — our brands should be, too. Having a successful brand isn’t just about brand recognition. It’s about relevancy. This is why some of the most popular brands in the world have gone through several major refreshes in the last fifteen years. It’s how they manage to stay popular.

Kudos to Rayovac for recognizing this and being willing to adapt.

By Rani Sweis Apr 07, 2019
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