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A Logo That Goes With Everything

Dawn Turner's picture

I have had what I consider a unique opportunity of being involved in a brand/visual identity change at two different companies, and as I reflect back on these experiences I have made a few observations that I thought I would point out this month.

Those who pay close attention to their surroundings year after year will notice that brands evolve their visual identities over time. When I say brands, I don’t just mean consumer companies, I mean all brands.

If you research companies like Starbucks and Apple, you will see a distinct story emerge from the evolution of their logo over the years. In both instances, they have made stylistic updates that pay homage to their past as well as look toward their future, and their current visual identities are modern takes on their individual style that do not include the company name but are simple representations of what have become icons.

Of course these and other large companies work to capitalize on the equity their brand has in the marketplace, but they also have worked to build their licensing and other retail programs that boost their bottom line revenue. I believe this is where teams, events and leagues can benefit the most.

I have no idea what Starbucks makes on the retail products they sell (think mugs, etc.), but would imagine top professional leagues like the NFL and teams (say the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers) sell A LOT more merchandise (cha-ching!). Think about how often you see someone (non-employees) wearing a Starbucks shirt or hat on the street (if you have thought of one I am very impressed and guess you might live in Seattle).

This makes me wonder how much relation there is between consumer brand changes and sports team/event brand changes. I also wonder how many sports teams/leagues and events have thought about making a change but have been afraid of backlash from fans and other entities. And I wonder how many consumer brands have thought about how they can capitalize on licensing revenue in the same way sports leagues, entertainment entities (think Disney…A BIG CHA-CHING!) and events do.

Of course there are a lot of experts out there that guide companies through brand changes, and there are a second set of companies that do similar work on the licensing side. I want to point out that I am not claiming to be an expert in either category. My intent in writing this column isn’t to offer specific advice, but I am hoping it causes you to reflect on your company or event’s current brand. Maybe this will lead you to think about whether or not a brand change or tweak is something that could be utilized to build on the past and look towards the future while at the same time padding the bottom line a little bit (or a lot) more. If you are a consumer brand, I am hoping you will consider how your company would benefit from an increase in licensing revenue.

Take the Dallas Mavericks for instance (I had the privilege of working there, so thought it might make a good example). The franchise started in 1980, and the original logo featured stylized text with a cowboy hat on the M. I was not around for the inception of the team, but imagine the first logo was meant to pay homage to the club’s first owner, Don Carter, who is still known for wearing a similar cowboy hat. Flash forward 20 years and the emergence of the club’s second (and current) majority owner Mark Cuban. Think new guy, new arena, new century, resurgence of the team, and the team was primed for a new look.

The two things I distinctly remember from that time are that Mark wanted something that looked different from the base style that had become common amongst NBA teams, and he was adamant that whatever color scheme was chosen looked good with jeans. This seemingly simple concept paid homage to his style, and what came about after launch was a large bump in team merchandise sales.

Along with a primary logo came alternate logos and wordmarks that are used in a variety of manners. Of course it didn’t stop there. Since the new logo was released in 2001, the club has released a variety of new road and alternate uniforms. Of course all of these looks are used in a variety of ways in the club’s merchandising program, and some of them have undergone twists that pay homage to the team’s original logo and colors. The team also continues to sell modern merchandise with the original marks, and I notice whenever I see someone wearing the old mark in a modern way that passersby always make a positive comment or offer a thumbs up/high five.

The one thing the big leagues and teams get right is creating merchandise opportunities that increase their bottom line, but I feel it is more than that. It is really about tapping into the passion of fans and providing a way for them to showcase their love and passion for their team through their own, individual style. This goes for men, women and children that come from all walks of life.

Now I do understand timing and paying homage to tradition are very important things to consider while trying to look and move forward. This is why it is important to get input from consumers passionate about the brand before embarking on the road of change.

I do believe there are ways to make updates and refresh older brands that have a strong foothold in tradition so they have a more modern twist without alienating passionate followers. This can be a tricky line to follow, I do believe there are things sports and event brands can learn from iconic consumer and entertainment brands because if done right it can reap (financial) benefits for years to come. After all, sports and entertainment is a business, just like Starbucks and Apple.

Please send your ideas for future columns to me via Twitter @dawtrnr

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