Logos and corporate identity should be received the same across the universe, among diverse consumers, right? So let’s say a Canadian, a Czech, a Cameroonian, a Chilean and a Cambodian would understand the same message from a logo, whether the logo shap eis round or square. Well… not so fast. It doesn’t work that way. As logos are essentially composed of a combination of shapes, images, letters, numbers signs and symbols. And the meaning that these elements carry differ among cultures.
A recent study from Rice University suggests that group-based cultures prefer round shaped logos to square ones. Whereas the latter, square logos, work better in individual-based cultures.
“Research in aesthetics shows that interdependent cultures prefer rounded shapes as they represent harmony, which is consistent with an interdependent view of the world,” …. “Those countries tend to have a higher percentage of rounded logos compared with individualistic countries, and logos and product shapes that are rounded are more acceptable and embraced in those cultures.” … “When angular logos are changed to rounded logos, they become more acceptable in interdependent and collectivist cultures such as India and China than in Western countries which tend to have a more independent or individualistic culture.”… according to Rice University Marketing Professor Vikas Mittal.
This research came up during Starbucks’ recent logo makeover, where they removed the words “Starbucks Coffee” and highlighted only the siren or mermaid as the main character of Starbucks logo. Professor Mittal‘s study also looked into the level of consumer commitment toward brand logos and their reaction whenever companies change their logos or corporate identity. The study entitled “Do Logo Redesigns Help or Hurt Your Brand? The Role of Brand Commitment,” was published in 2010 the Journal of Product & Brand Management.
Against this study, Starbucks is well positioned to strengthen its image as it continues its Asian expansion, with its plan to grow cafe locations from 400 to 1,500 in China alone. Aside from similar growth plans for the rest of Asia, including the fast growing markets of India and Indonesia.
“The logo of a brand is much more than a pictorial representation of the brand,” Mittal said in an EurekAlert news release. “For consumers who are highly committed to the brand, the logo represents a visual conduit that enables a customer to identify with the brand. Our studies have shown that highly committed consumers also have very high levels of brand attachment. As such, any changes to the brand conduit — the logo — are seen as a violation of the psychological contract between the brand and the consumer.”
In one of his studies, Mittal found that companies that changed their logo design were most likely to alienate committed customers. Mittal and his co-authors on both studies, Michael Walsh of West Virginia University and Karen Winterich of Penn State University, found that the higher a consumer’s brand commitment, the more upset the consumer became with logo changes. A logo change brought triple the negative thoughts from strongly committed consumers than less committed consumers.
“It is important for companies to refresh their logos, but the process of doing so must be carefully managed,” Mittal said in the Rice University news release. “Our research shows that companies need to carefully consult customers — whether through Internet sites or chat rooms — to ensure that customers feel they have been heard in the redesign and repositioning process. That will ensure that highly committed customers — who are also often the heaviest consumers of the brand — feel connected to the brand.”
This reminds me of GAP’s recent logo blunder when in 2010 they completely changed their classic logo and alienated themselves from their customers, who proceeded to protest via Soccial Media and Blogs… in short resulting in GAP‘s shelving the logo change idea and going back to their old logo.
Inspiration: Vancouver Sun