Thursday, August 23, 2012

Microsoft's new logo -- a winner or a cracked Window?

Janet Tu of the Seattle Times has a good piece on Microsoft's announcement of its new logo, the first change since 1987.

Once a skeptic that logos were often overrated and over-considered, I've since learned that a logo can have a dramatic effect, good or bad.

Microsoft's new logo
In Tu's story, she quotes a Wharton professor about how a logo is an instant communication of the brand, what's  seen over and over by consumers and employees. Is anything communicated? Or is it just a graphic with no effect. Or, ideally, does it convey the authentic identity of the brand and help activate passion for the brand.

Tu quote a Microsoft executive discussing the details of the logo -- and it's sort of talk that fuels skeptics who think a slight change here or a subtle change in a font is a bit like that hair cut given to the Cowardly Lion in Oz. Snip, snip here. Snip, snip there.

I've learned, especially in working with a former colleague, Mary Olson, that a logo well considered, designed and executed can be powerful, and more so over time. Mary led an effort to change the Seattle University Athletics Redhawks logo. She did scores of refinements. In the end, the new logo looked similar yet far more powerful. Among other changes, she closed the bird's mouth (which I always thought looked like it was whining to referees) and added a bump to the beak so the creature looked tougher, more confidant, a winner.  People like winners. The logo and other changes led to a dramatic increase in sales of apparel wear.

Cool in 1975
Check out Tu's story to see how the Microsoft logo has evolved since 1975. It's hard to imagine that the 1975 logo was cool in anyone's mind. But so was really big hair in those days. Don't forget MSFT then was by geeks for geeks, not for corporations and later a world-wide base of customers.

Microsoft's logo change coincides with a re-positioning of the company as a whole, shaking off the perception by some that the company had gone stale, though still hugely successful by anyone's measure. Microsoft has a bag of new products coming soon, most especially a new OS. The company astutely realizes this is a time to leverage those different product launches as an integrated campaign. Though some still may snicker at the brown Zune and other Microsoft efforts in the past, one of the company's great strengths was marketing. Great marketing involves risk and courage.

Update: Seattle Times describes mixed review.

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