Is branding really that important? Is it possible to upset hordes of people simply by creating a logo that should have been a no go? The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” In recent years there has been some terrible mistakes made by organizations, companies and graphic designers, resulting in fiery protests, and, in some cases, red faced back tracking. Here are some examples of recent controversial logos that made the wrong kind of impact.
2012 London Olympics logo
Credit: Andrea Vascellari
It’s not that bad is it? Yes, quite frankly, it is. Designed by Wolff Olins, the £400,000 logo was unveiled on 4 June 2007. Public feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly negative, with 80% of people participating in a BBC online poll giving the logo the lowest possible score. The press instantly attacked, setting up their own competitions to find a better designed logo among their readers. Just when the Olympic committee thought it could get no worse, complaints came in that a short advertisement shown on TV depicting the logo had caused epileptic seizures, and then Iran threatened to pull out of the games, because the racist logo spelled ‘Zion’. The logo remains, but will the controversy continue through the games?
The new (scrapped) Gap logo
Just how powerful is branding to a company’s loyal customer base? When clothing giant Gap attempted to introduce a new logo on 6 October 2010 they found out. Removing the established blue box and writing their brand name in Helvetica, Gap stirred a veritable hornet’s nest, as the public and graphic designers protested with such fury that Gap were forced to return to their prior blue box design, just one week after their grand unveiling of the new design. North American Gap Brand President Marka Hansen admitted that the company had “learned a lot in the process”, particularly about missing the “opportunity to engage with the online community”. He resigned 1 February 2011.
The new British Airways tail-fin art
Credit: John M (2007)
In 1997, British Airways introduced a new livery, which included a new range of tail-fin art designs, referred to as the world image or Utopia tailfins, which were seen by British Airways as a step away from the stuffy arrogance of the previous Union flag design scheme, toward a recognition and embracement of the cultures of all the countries that were on the British Airways network of flight routes. Misjudging the British public’s feeling for tradition, British Airways received many complaints from UK customers. The most damning verdict came from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who dropped a handkerchief over a model of a 747 bearing a world image tailfin design, stating, “We fly the British flag, not these awful things.” Eventually, in 2001, the new British Airways Chief Executive Ron Eddington ordered the whole fleet to be repainted with the Union flag livery.
The Starbucks logo redesign
Credit: Leyla Abdullayeva
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was the general feedback when coffee giant Starbucks unveiled their new redesigned logo in January 2011, which incredibly dropped the ‘Starbucks’ and the ‘coffee’ type, focussing instead on the twin-tailed siren usually locked in the centre of the circular logo, but now enlarged and set free. Starbucks CEO Howard Shulz insisted the change was simply an “evolutionary refinement of the logo”, but over 500 people left critical comments on the company blog. At the time of the change James Gregory, CEO of brand consulting firm Core Brand, stated, “What’s it going to be, the coffee formerly known as Starbucks?” Shulz explained that the growing range of Starbucks products not related to coffee meant the change was natural. A risky move, but the new logo remains.
About the author
This article was produced by London based print shop, PrintExpress.co.uk.