Houston Voices

Consider this research before redesigning your company's logo

You might want to think twice before making a change to your company's logo. Pexels

When Apple toyed with the idea of a logo change in 2003, thousands of users signed petitions attacking the idea. The company quickly realized that change was not necessarily good — and kept the iconic apple.

For most firms, a logo redesign is a way to refresh the brand, making it more alluring to new customers.

If a company does change its look, industry tradition advises, it should go round. Curvier lines and letters supposedly suggest a soothing, harmonious reality, while angles suggest just the opposite.

But research by Rice Business professor Vikas Mittal and colleagues Michael Walsh of West Virginia University and Karen Winterich of Pennsylvania State University shows that regardless of the angle, companies need to be careful about visual do-overs. In general, tolerance for new logos — angular or rounded — depends on the consumer profile. Diehard fans of a brand may find the break in their visual routine irritating. New customers, meanwhile, may or may not find the updated logo aesthetically pleasing.

To test the public's reactions to logo changes, Mittal and his team conducted three different experiments with 215 people, 62 percent of them female and 38 percent male. First, participants were shown a range of logo designs for two leading bottled waters, Dasani and Aquafina. Then they were shown logos by a professional designer who rounded out the images' lines.

Changing the logo design overall, the researchers found, created a sense of dissonance among the most highly committed consumers, who reacted negatively to the new visual information.

People who viewed themselves as more independent minded were less accepting of the rounded logos. Those who thought of themselves as more interdependent in terms of their relationship to family and friends were more likely to roll with the change.

The researchers studied their hypothesis further by recruiting 272 undergraduate students at a large university. To participants who identified as interdependent, the researchers offered the following ad copy: "Everybody's Favorite! Give your family and friends the water that makes mouths water. Dasani. It's been a family favorite for years."

For participants with an independent self-identity, the researchers presented different wording. "Your Favorite!" this ad read. "Give yourself the water that makes mouths water. Dasani. It's been a favorite for years. Today our classic water has been joined by a variety of flavored waters that are sure to please you."

Committed consumers in both groups didn't care much for the new logo. But when the design was rounded, those who identified as interdependent on family, friends and community were less resistant than those who saw themselves as more independent.

The takeaway for business: If your brand is well known, change that logo at your peril. You're likely to irk your most devoted customers. If you must change it, however, make it rounder, especially if you are a global brand. It'll take the edge off – both for consumers and for your company.

------

This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom.

Vikas Mittal is the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

The Rice Management Company has broken ground on the renovation of the historic Midtown Sears building, which will become The Ion. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

The Ion — a to-be entrepreneurial hub for startups, universities, tech companies, and more — is, in a way, the lemonade created from the lemons dealt to the city by a snub from Amazon.

In 2018, Amazon narrowed its options for a second headquarters to 20 cities, and Houston didn't make the shortlist.

"That disappointment lead to a sense of urgency, commitment, and imagination and out of that has come something better than we ever could have imagined," David Leebron, president of Rice University, says to a crowd gathered for The Ion's groundbreaking on July 19.

However disappointing the snub from Amazon was, it was a wake-up call for so many of the Houston innovation ecosystem players. The Ion, which is being constructed within the bones of the historic Midtown Sears building, is a part of a new era for the city.

"Houston's on a new course to a new destination," says Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Here are some other overheard quotes from the groundbreaking ceremony. The 270,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in 18 months.


The historic Sears building in Midtown will transform into The Ion, a Rice University-backed hub for innovation. Courtesy of Rice University


The Sears opened in 1939. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

“We have the capacity — if we work together — not only to make this a great innovation hub, but to do something that truly represents the Houston can-do, collaborative spirit.”

— David Leebron, president of Rice University. Leebron stressed the unique accomplishment the Ion has made to bring all the universities of Houston together for this project. "When we tell people the collaboration that has been brought together around this project, they are amazed," he says.

“The nation is seeing what we already know in the city of Houston. That this city has the greatest and most creative minds. We are a model for inclusion among people and cultures from everywhere. We are a city that taps the potential of every resident, dares them to dream big, and we provide the tools to make those dreams come true.”

— Mayor Sylvester Turner, who says he remembers shopping in the former Sears building as a kid, but notes how Houston's goals have changed, as has the world.

“When this store opened in 1939, it showcased a couple of innovations even back then: The first escalator in Texas, the first air conditioned department store in Houston, the first windowless department store in the country.”

— Senator Rodney Ellis, who adds the request that The Ion have windows.

“Many people ask us, ‘why not just tear down the old building and start new?’ We actually see this as a very unique opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs to be located within a historic building, while benefiting from an enhanced structure, state-of-the-art technology, and Class A tenant comforts.”

— Allison Thacker, president of the Rice Management Company. She describes the environment of being a beehive of activity.

“[As program partner for The Ion,] our mission is to build the innovation economy of Houston one entrepreneur at a time.”

— Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston. Rowe describes Station's role as a connector between startups, venture capital firms, major corporations, and more.