Marketing|Demand Creation Blog: Thoughts on strategy, lead optimization, social media and the digital space

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Corporate Brands Have Mid-life Crises Too!

As I write this, the news of both Intel and AT&T’s revamping of their respective corporate brand marks is no longer new. I hadn’t even planned on giving the topic voice here, except as the story received more media coverage and I saw the new logos repeatedly, it began to bother me that two of the biggest corporate icons in America had ditched their, well, icons for something newer and flashier. Moreover, since discussion of graphic design return on investment is part of this blog’s mission, I thought it was worth mentioning.

How much is that logo in the window [worth]?
The logo is a company’s visual signpost of recognition for all of its stakeholders and is the embodiment of what the company stands for: it is a promise of expectations. It takes scant seconds for my young kids to recognize the trademark silhouette of Cinderella’s castle on a blue field as one of their favorite Disney DVD movies about to begin. Such is the power of a well-recognized mark. It takes years of consistent application to build that kind of recognition and changing a well-known mark has far-reaching financial implications. There is the often cited figure that while the net assets of the Coca-Cola company total about $7.3 Billion,1 the intangible value of the Coke name (and all it represents) is estimated at $72.2 Billion dollars 2 — strong evidence that it is unwise to lightly mess with corporate identity.

Of the two, I fault AT&T less for twiddling with their classic Saul Bass-designed mark than Intel. AT&T has been in a long slump, the sad culmination of which is being gobbled up by one of the companies it sired when Bell was broken up in 1984. In the wake of the merger with SBC, the rationale probably included the desire to have a logo that, while not breaking completely with the name equity of the past, jazzes the old mark up a bit with early 21st century tech flair. That said, the designer in me thinks the new mark debases the crispness of the Bass original with its lowercase type rendering in a childish homage, perhaps, to e.e. cummings. The symbol is needlessly complicated by the angled strokes on a semi-transparent “marble.”

On the other hand, Intel — a company whose brand value was more than 4 times its net income of $7.5 Billion in 2004 3 and whose 2005 brand value rose 6% 4— has little reason to cast off so completely the mark that served it so well for 37 years. It seems the designers of the new mark finally convinced the Intel board that a logo created by the company founders simply wouldn’t do for a company seeking to expand its market beyond that of the world’s best known chipmaker (apparently there was something wrong with that position). Too bad the new mark is not so much logo-nouveau as it is retro. The canted ellipse was design element du jour during the dot-com boom. I lament the loss of the original distinctive Intel logo, but at least it will have plenty of like-styled marks to keep it company today (see below)

1 Coca-Cola Company Consolidated Balance Sheet - January 31, 2001 (
2 Interbrand, 2000. 2005 Brand Value estimated by Interbrand at $67.5 Billion
3 Edgar Online. Period ending 12/25/2004
4 Interbrand &

Joseph Mann Thursday, January 19, 2006


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