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When You Shouldn’t Change Your Logo

Now, why would a passionate designer be suggesting NOT to invest in a new logo or update your existing logo? As we talked about in our post “What is Brand?”, we understand that a brand is not just your logo. It’s everything people believe to be true about your business.

If people understand one story about your business and yet it’s not what needs to be told - changing the logo could actually do more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at two prominent brands that changed their logo in hopes of repairing their brand image. They made the wrong move and ended up in deeper trouble than before. The result was that they ended up put in “checkmate” by their audience.


An iconic brand was becoming a little stale and uninspired. So they attempted to add excitement to the Gap brand by designing a completely new logo in October of 2010. It received so much public criticism that it lived a long life of approximately one week before the logo was pulled back! There was such a negative outcry online that initially the Gap planned to crowd source a new logo in place of the new one, but the public didn’t want that either. After a few days, the iconic clothing company announced it would be returning to the solid white GAP in a blue box introduced 20 years earlier. This attempted logo reveal has been credited as being ‘one of the worst of all time.’ *credit to Craig Smith. (add quote link)

So, where did they go wrong? Why so much outrage?

  1. They had a very loyal fan base, and did not consult with them to test the idea.

  2. Did not understand how they were being perceived.

  3. Did not have a launch strategy.

  4. Changed logo with no warning.

Estimated cost of The Gap re-brand was about $100 million. Wow! A stunning amount of money for something that seemed to have very little in the way of PR, customer analysis or a thorough understanding of their true position within their customers minds.


If you live in Canada, no doubt you spent some of your childhood, perhaps pulled along by mom or grandma at Sears; or pouring through the giant Christmas Wishbook. Unfortunately, that image never really left the minds of genXers. The sad story of Sears is that they kept telling the same story, but didn’t seem to realize that no one was listening anymore. They never changed their positioning and ended up dying off literally during the same time period as their loyal customer base aged away with them and were no longer around.

When Sears died off after 60 years other than employees of the store, no one really cared anyway. Their problem was that they didn’t have a loyal base at this point—unlike the Gap—because they didn’t change their story and positioning until it was years too late.

Sears had other massive problems as it neared bankruptcy, which we are not going into here. But, they tried to paste on one big new logo and re-brand at a time that just wasn’t theirs anymore.

I propose that the Sears name was so branded an “old people store” in the minds of a younger generation, that trying to make it “funkier” or “more young” just made it inauthentic to who Sears was as a persona, and repelled those desired younger demographics even more.

Sometimes your brand has such a strong, specific meaning to an audience that what is really needed is a new name in order to begin anew. Sears could have thought about re-launching under a new name and in turn, it could have launched a new story.

It might be good to mention the new tagline Sears created was: “What the Sears?!” I the only one who has negative associations with that slogan?! It reminds me of a much more popular saying that involves profanity and is used in situations involving negativity. For me, this signalled the icing on the cake for a strategy gone wrong.

There were some attempts at a few small pop-up boutiques where the Sears name was hidden, but as it stood, it really was too little, too late.

So, back to why you shouldn’t change your logo.

What I’m suggesting is that you really need a solid strategy that encapsulates the things your audience believes, what needs they are really facing themselves, as well as an understanding of how you are uniquely positioned to help them.

This strategy must be in place to make sure that everything you do visually after that lines up. So your dollars get invested in a way that will bring better returns. It takes some of the guesswork out of what you are trying to do and gives to a roadmap that makes sense for what is true about who you are as a business, and where you can realistically go with your audiences.

So here’s one designer pleading with you—don’t just change your logo without a solid foundation in place first!

Natalie MantejComment