In early September, Verizon unveiled a new logo, part of a larger rebranding effort aimed at projecting transparency in a product category known for complexity and opacity. According to Michael Bierut, a partner at Pentagram, which created the new logo, “simplicity, reliability, and focus on the customer” was the guiding spirit.
On Twitter, people had their own opinions.
@Jim_Brown, with a fine-tuned sense of nuance and proportion, tweeted, “The new @verizon logo may be the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” While @MikeESchmee seemed to suggest a Scarlet Letter-style shunning may be in order: “Could you imagine being friends or family with the persons responsible for the new Verizon logo?”
No matter what the brand, if it has a new visual identity to announce to the world, you can bet social media will hate it. Thank god Paul Rand was never on Twitter. Otherwise he probably would have gone into insurance.
Yet as far as I can tell, all this vitriol is based on a single point of substance, one undeniable fact: The new logo is not the old logo. That’s it. This is mob vengeance exacted by people whose expertise derives from seeing Helvetica on Netflix. Once the bien pensant critique gets rolling, you join the pile because . . . well, it’s what you do. And because it’s easy. No one’s going to come after you for expressing everyone else’s opinion.
Marketers are told they need to be responsive, to be always on. That social media demands they be “part of the conversation.” But what if the conversation is inane? After launching a new brand identity, companies need to stay the course, ignore the reflexive social media hate, and stick to the plan they’ve laid out. Because there is a plan, typically the result of months of preparation and thought about the brand’s past and how the company wants it to be perceived in the future.
The day before Verizon announced its new logo, Google introduced theirs. The move, Google’s blog explained, was driven by the new reality of how people interact with its products: “We’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs.”
@Likeotters carefully considered the design constraints implied by the diversity of mobile screen sizes and wrote, “Siri, why is the new google logo so terrible and gaudy?” (A Siri joke! In 2015!) @Jacobunicyclist wrote: “I have officially forgiven Google for having a crappy new logo.” (Phew.)
Google could take stock of the social media chatter, decide they’re tired of taking a beating, revert to the old logo, and be done with it. That’s what the Gap did in 2010, abandoning its logo redesign after countless amateur Vignellis tweeted mean things.
“OK. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo,” Gap said in a Facebook post. “We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers.”
But what could they possibly have learned from the “feedback”? And shouldn’t the brand–not the torch-and-pitchfork crowd–decide what’s best for the brand?
Patience is never more of a virtue than in these situations. With a consistency you can set your watch to, logo-rrheic outrage will be forgotten before the week is out. Because inevitably, there’s some new nontransgression you’re supposed to pretend insults you.
Remember the backlash following Airbnb’s rebranding last year? At the time, people joked the new Airbnb logo looked like a vagina, or balls, or something. It’s so obvious, don’t you see it? Well, no one talks about this anymore. In part because after a day or two, Twitter got bored and moved on. Also, perhaps, because after living with it for a while, people decided . . . they liked the logo. It works.
Contrast the response of Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s cofounder, with the Gap’s. “Go ahead, laugh all you want, guys,” he said at the time. “We wouldn’t want to design a logo that caters to the lowest common denominator.” Blecharczyk was criticized for being arrogant. His real offense? Refusing to let the mob make design decisions for his company.
I’m not saying brands never make mistakes, or that they should never listen to what the marketplace is telling them. In 2009, a redesign cost Tropicana millions in sales because the new washed-out look of its packaging essentially rendered the brand invisible to supermarket shoppers looking for orange juice. It’s hard to argue with mass rejection at the store shelf.
But mass rejection on Twitter? That’s just an average Monday. And Tuesday is a new day.
Chapin Clark is EVP, managing director, copywriting, at R/GA, where he also serves as the voice behind @rga, the company’s Twitter handle. Full disclosure: R/GA works or has worked with Verizon, Google, and Airbnb.