Evolving Brands at the Branding Link + Think

Hummingbird CreativeBranding Link + Think

AMA Branding link + think on Big Data

On Friday September 22, Hummingbird Creative Group hosted their monthly Branding Link + Think for the Triangle AMA. This month’s topic was “As Branding Evolves, What is a Logo and Brand Identity Worth?” and focused on an article surrounding the upset in the fashion industry as brands are slowly changing their logos.

As Branding Evolves, What’s a Logo Worth?

Years ago, a logo had to be timeless. Many brands saw their logos becoming an iconic symbol that stood for a cultural reference. With the world changing, even major fashion brands are being forced to reconsider what they once believed about their logo. Internal and external factors, change of products or services or even just removing a once-trendy element for a logo are all reasons to change.

Fashion brands are changing quite a bit now. But it wasn’t always that way. Once, the brand was what you were buying and the logo was what symbolized the brand.

Keeping Up with the Times

Calvin Klein was a major player in the 1990s. With popular faces such as Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss as the face of the brand, there was no escaping the reach of the brand. With such a popularity, the logo began to be used everywhere– people even had their initials put on their personal items in the same style as the iconic “CK”.


In recent years, Calvin Klein has changed the name of their company from “Calvin Klein Collection” to “Calvin Klein 205 W39 NYC”. This change followed the introduction of Raf Simons as the chief creative officer last August. Simons first goal was to herald new change for the brand’s “ready-to-wear” line. This move could have been made in an attempt to tie Calvin Klein into the local culture of the fashion district in Manhattan. Unfortunately for Calvin Klein, the fashion district is dying and seldom few outside the area itself would understand the reference.

For some, the change is not needed. Chanel has had the same logo since the inception of the brand in 1925. The two interlocking Cs stand for the founder’s, Coco Chanel, initials. The famous French fashion house’s logo represents the elegance and elitism the brand has strived to be known for. In fact, the logo means so much that Chanel purses with the logo emblazoned on them tend to resale for 20 percent higher than the same bag sans logo.


Of course, there is something to take into consideration when comparing the two logos. The simplicity of the Chanel logo has allowed it to have an added value that the Calvin Klein logo du’jour could never reach.

Coach is beginning to understand this as well. Both Coach and Calvin Klein are suffering a declining business and made a business move to reinvent themselves. Unfortunately, a business move that’s good for profits might not be good for the brand which, in turn, can diminish profits down the road. As profits began to slip, both Calvin Klein and Coach made their way into outlet malls selling diminished quality products for a diminished price. Calvin Klein is even available at Costco, now. With the mass market now able to purchase and what was once high end and unaccessible brands, the brand has been diluted and compromised. The high-end brands suddenly became the “everyday brands”.

The real value of the brand lies in their behavior. It’s not about the art, it’s about the experience. When you remove the experience, you compromise the brand and remove the power of the logo.

Of course, the fashion sector isn’t the only industry that’s struggling with their changing industry and expectations from consumers. The restaurant industry is fighting the same battle.

Olive Garden, seemingly overnight, completely redid their entire brand aesthetics in 2014. The Darden-owned chain unveiled their new logo to an utterly perplexed audience. The original logo was an odd 80s-esque font on a “vintage” Italian-themed background.

The new logo had a font that was even odder and out of place slightly leaning into comic sans territory (the most hated font of all fonts, seriously).

Unfortunately at the same time as the unveiling, quality within the restaurants was beginning to decline. Customers started to associate the new logo with a brand that wasn’t as centered around good food and family like they were before. The new logo, for some, signified the end of an era, the end of an experience.

Subway also faces some issues with their updated logo. While not an incredibly drastic change from logos past, some are likening the new logo to Waste Management’s logo.

Yikes. The sandwich shop probably isn’t too happy their product is being associated with garbage.

What it seems companies are forgetting is that the logo needs to reflect some of the core values of the company. In some way, it needs to tell a piece of the story.

Downside of Refreshing

Brands, like Diane von Furstenberg, who have rebranded need to consider any opportunities they’re losing when redesigning a logo. Part of the appeal of the Chanel or the Gucci logo is the tactile manner in which it can be produced. Belts, keychains and otherwise small luxury trinkets can be made and emblazoned with the logo. Apps for shopping the latest collection and to send push notifications for flash sales can bear the easily recognizable logo.

During their rebrand, Diane von Furstenberg lost that. Her original logo had the ability to be made into a tactile object and to be transferred into the digital world of smartphone apps.

It does beg the question, are these new logos showing these brands true selves or did they get swept up in the craze?

“A lot of brands are rethinking their logos so they can tell a story better,” said Wendy Coulter, CEO and founder of Hummingbird Creative. “But these classic, great, ones you don’t really see people touching. And they don’t have to, because they’re living true to their brand.”

With the introduction of fast fashion, brands are feeling the push to reinvent themselves. But fast fashion may just be that, fast.

“Fast fashion is super trendy, super cheap but doesn’t super last,” said one of the Link + Think attendees.

With fast fashion calling the shots– just like when outlet malls became a popular destination for inexpensive brand-name items– brands make the moves to the money. What they don’t consider when making the move is the uphill battle to get their credibility back.

All the Right Reasons

Of course, there are the right reasons to change a logo and desperation is not one of them. A logo change should be seen more as an evolution or an update. Aldi is a great example of evolution throughout each time. Little by little, the brand changed their logo without jarring their customers with sudden change.

Some brands want to play on nostalgia. Pepsi introduced their Pepsi Throwback and branded it with a logo of the past. People who grew up when that logo spearheaded the company were immediately attracted to it as thoughts of their childhood and “how things used to be” came to mind.

Your logo should evolve with the brand. With the growth of business comes growth of the logo. Whatever you put forth should tell the story of the brand, reflect the money that’s being put behind it and speak to the customers.

Join other Triangle AMA members for a monthly special interest group to discuss aspects of building and maintaining a great brand– from brand strategy and how corporate culture reflects branding, to building brand equity, implementing brand standards and more.

The Branding Link + Think is hosted by Hummingbird Creative Group on the fourth Friday of every month starting at 8am. Hummingbird Creative Group is located at 160 NE Maynard Road, Suite 205, Cary NC 27513.

Our next Branding Link + Think will be on October 27 and the focus will be on sonic branding. To find out more about next month’s Branding Link + Think, visit the event page or visit the Triangle AMA’s event page to learn more about all the special interest groups offered monthly.