Less is more. Lean and mean. KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. We’ve all come across these phrases at some point(s) in our lives. For some if you are the theatrical flamboyant type, maybe even more so.  This blog post is inspired by MasterCard’s decision to change their logo. If you look more closely, and not only at MasterCard but at other brands that have changed their logos recently, those three phrases seem to be a growing trend. Simplicity seems to be the driving force behind re-branding logo designs. And if you adjust the magnifying glass even more, a possible zoom-in effect seems to be a trend as well.

Evolution of MasterCard Logo

Mastercard re-branding

Quick scenario: Ever had that experience where you swipe your card and it’s rejected? If you have, you know of the associated emotions with that dreaded experience. Yes, I’m talking about the irrational thoughts that immediately arise, the absurd need to tell everyone the exact amount in your account and the ardent conviction in which you tell the cashier and everyone who’s listening that you do have money and there’s something wrong with their machine.

Sometimes from a customer/ client’s perspective re-branding can feel a tad bit like the scenario above. Especially for those that are brand loyal. And I suppose that’s how some people feel about MasterCard’s logo change. Particularly when you factor in that they are a financial institution in this economic and political climate. However, when you actually read and do your own research as to why MasterCard is changing their logo. Their reason is sound. We are in a digital era, albeit we are progressing slowly into it, to them it makes sense take advantage of this opportunity. MasterCard’s re-branded logo are designed for the digital age. To ensure transactions are executed with ease. Simply put, to prevent worse cases than the scenario I mentioned.

Why re-branding logos takes place?

There are a number of reasons as to why brands change their logos. Simple reason would be change is good, change is constant and change is inevitable. Yes all this is true but in the marketing world, change has to be strategic and tactical. The strategic reasons for re-branding:

Business Acquisition

When companies merge and become a whole new entity, changes have to be communicated to the public. One of the simple and effective ways of communicating this magnitudinous change is changing the logo. In changing the logo the brand establishes a new brand identity based on the two previous ones, to create a similar brand identity. When the re-branding is well executed, the merged company is able to retain previous clientele and even gain new customers.

An example below:

Re-branding: aquisition


Change of name

When a company changes their company name what follows suit is change of their image- their logo. I suppose this is branding 101, right under subheading Thou Shalt. It makes sense that one would also change the logo. Again, it goes back to communication. The change needs to conveyed to the target audience because if it is not it will be an impairment to the company. Cohesion and congruency need be present in both changes. As the lack of could break the company.

An example:

Due to IP reasons, Mozilla Firefox had to change their company name from Phoenix to Firefox. As evidenced below, cohesiveness is present in their artwork and name.

Re-branding: change of business name

Logo Renaissance

This is a universal strategic motive for re-branding. It often occurs when companies have been well established and have ventured into other fields, explored possible product or service extensions and lines. It is when they have refined and revitalised their brand. When a decision is made under this reason, the company has to decide if they want a new concept or evolve their logo.

A Windows Example:

Re-branding: logo renaissance


Changes in organisation

The reason is similar to the above. It occurs when the company has evolved and entered into new markets. The changes may not be major in terms of size, they may be small changes. However, still significant enough to warrant re-branding.

A Local example:

Re-branding: change in organisation

Woolworths went from targeting high LSMs only offering clothing to offering food, furniture and having a café. The new logo allows them to play and even venture into new markets.


Limit negative associations

When your brand or company seem to be getting negative feedback and associations that tear down the brand, in branding, the first thing to do will be re-branding.  This requires the company to pick out all the negative nodes associated with the brand and shell them away until they are left with the positive associations.

A local example:

re-branding: limit negative associations


8-ta was giving trouble to many of the customers, and too many negative nodes had been associated with the brand. As Telkom is the Parent company of the network, it took over the brand in order to minimise the negative associations.

When you look closer into re-branding, particularly into logos, we see that through evolution of logos the purpose of the brand is still there. Be it offering a premium product or service or a need the examples above is proof of that purpose exists. Re-branding logos as much as it is about communication and being able to retain the brand identity having brand recall and recognition, the market is also involved. Take Woolworths for instance re-branding their logo has allowed them to venture into markets and attain more market share. For some brands, re-branding may be changing their market completely. So in addition, branding very much includes purpose and market.

Future Trend

With the growing trend of the zoom effect and the transition into the digital world, I think it’s safe to say simplicity is the way. I predict other brands will also be following the same trend were subtle and inconspicuous changes are made, basically zooming in the brand logo one percentage at a time. This is evidenced by Starbucks logo.

Starbucks logo:

Re-branding: zoom-effect


And I must admit that the subtlety is genius. The customer notices the change but still has the brand identity in the head. All those things that are associated with the brand/logo are still present in the customers mind, in fact the change does not even wean the associations. And eventually when the logo is just a colour or a shape, or dot, the customer will still be able to recognise this is the brand and this is what makes this brand unique. Taking into consideration that we are in the digital age, complex designs will just hamper the functionality of your brand to exist. Therefore simplifying the physical, means more effort and time is dedicated to into the intricate designs of building brand to exist.

Brandon Le-Chat

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