Sensitive consumers resist changes to corporate logos

For a surprising number of people, worrying about company logos is on the consumers’ agenda.

It is hard to believe that anyone could become so attached to a company’s product symbol that a change could trigger a major consumer backlash.

Clearly there are companies that are so recognizable that they can rely on nothing but a symbol for identification. Examples abound, for instance, CN’s letters in the form of a railroad track, or the maple leaf on Maple Leaf’s food packages. They illustrate the impact of a company symbol.

For many reasons, perhaps to be modern, companies have tried to change their logos, only to be forced to backtrack by a confused public. Pepsi had to do just that.

Why do people get so upset about such changes? Some logos are perplexing, so consumers do not understand them, such as Rogers’ logo: a swirl – a swirling piece of paper in a circle offers little to define the company.

One has to question management for wasting so much time, energy and money on a matter that is so relatively unimportant.

Good logos can be very helpful. They present an image of quality and reliability. President’s Choice is able to gain support with a label that reassures consumers. Tim Hortons’ cups similarly attract consumers. Not only is the product that is offered luring, but the Tim Hortons’ outlets have come to resemble a community clubhouse where people can meet and visit. The Canadian Tire logo wins adherents because its products have been very satisfactory.

Numbers of companies have gone out of their way to encourage loyalty, epitomized by a logo. They work hard to inspire emotional bonds with consumers. They may involve them in what used to be internal operations, asking customers to come up with new product ideas.

There is another reason to explain the attachment to old logos. With the prevalence of turmoil in our everyday world, many feel overwhelmed and seek the familiar in our increasingly disorderly life.

Consumers may feel an emotional bond with a company. It is not just an enterprise, but a way of life, part of a routine.

Companies have discovered that change can be counter-productive. The same product clothed in a new label does not seem to be the same to sensitive consumers.

Bruce Whitestone