Should you consult your customers before changing your brand’s logo?

19th Jul 2016

Is it really risky for a brand to change its logo? That is a good question; for instance, in 2010 the GAP company had to revert its logo change just seven days after its launch due to its customers’ negative reactions. Starbucks, Apple and Penn State University also encountered many negative reactions when they changed their logos.

A scientific study based on a real logo change for Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM), highlights the fact that brands must wait and be strong against critics!

As three professors of Marketing from Toulouse University and Grenoble Ecole de Management, we decided to study the real-life case of the GEM logo change. The results from their study showed that surprise plays an important role in the acceptance of logo change. 

A logo, as a symbol, plays an important role in the overall marketing activities of a company; customers can automatically identify a brand based on its logo, highlighting the fact that a logo is an extension of the company and its values - it is a visual expression of what the company stands for. 

Logos help to build a band and develop brand equity through increased brand recognition. A logo is among the most powerful brand elements, due to its impact on brand knowledge and thus on brand equity; impairing a logo can have dramatic effects on a brand.

However, in the case of a radical logo change (i.e. major change in the visual identification of an existing brand), the surprise created by this change may affect the relationships among brand familiarity, brand attachment and logo perceptions. Individuals with an existing, long-term relationship with the band and its symbols, such as its logo, could be more intensively affected by a logo change than the individuals who have a more recent relationship with it.

Individuals should be more tolerant in the case of a minor change (vs major change) to familiar logos. It is possible too, that in case of change, the attachment to the brand falls down. If this reaction exists, this can be detrimental for the brand.

As part of the study - ‘Surprise! We changed the logo’ - 220 GEM students were surveyed. 103 were current students and 117 future students (applicants) in order to measure potential differences between old and new customers. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire and they were asked about their familiarity and attachment to the school’s brand and the level of congruence between the old and new logo.

New logo

The results from the study show that the old logo was perceived by the current students as more congruent with the brand than by the prospective students. There was no difference in perceived congruence between the new logo and the brand between the two groups. In other words, only entrants perceived the old logo as less congruence between the old logo and the brand. It is interesting for brands to know these elements of customer perception and not go back just because of a few negative comments. 

A careful preparation of customers perceptions should be planned though communication campaigns.

In general, the level of attachment has no impact on the perception of the congruency between the old and the new logo.

Another interesting result from the study is that surprise has an impact on the perception of congruence between the brand and the new logo in the case of a major logo change. In order for a brand logo to be accepted and the relationship between the brand and the logo recognised, the surprise should be pleasant. An unpleasant surprise effect may lead to rejection of the new logo. In particular, the more negatively surprised customers are, the less they relate the brand with the logo. These finding suggest that a careful preparation of customers perceptions should be planned though communication campaigns, for example, to avoid any negative surprise.

These results are important in order for companies to prepare customers for a change, especially very familiar and attached customers in order to stimulate them and avoid negative surprise. Communication strategies, like a specific tease of the logo change, could be developed and used to prepare people for the update. Companies can directly call consumers for co-creating the new logo. Don’t try to launch your new logo with a great convention, just communicate before the change with your consumers and everything will be ok!

Julien Grobert is associate professor at IAE de Toulouse, Toulouse, France;  professor Caroline Cuny and professor Marianela Fornerino, are from the Department of Marketing, Grenoble Ecole de Management, Grenoble, France.


Replies (2)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Andy Fuller - Designbull
By designbull
19th Jul 2016 11:37

Great article. I believe that you have to firstly get the employees involved as well as informing valued customers for their opinion. Communications is our business (branding) - and people love to be involved or 'in-the-know'!

Thanks (1)
By EJohn Morris
20th Jul 2016 08:22

Good discussion opener, my personal view is no, I think this is could be seen as an attempt to test customer loyalty for good or bad. Not sure I care what the logo is, but it maybe important to others.

Thanks (1)