Should Your Firm's Logo Be Changed?
The process of rebranding a firm undoubtedly elicits strong opinions from both opponents and proponents to change. One decisive question that inevitably comes up is whether to keep the existing logo or to change it. While reasons of consistency and brand equity (as well as being cheaper) are valid arguments for keeping the logo, it’s important to understand the reasons why changing a logo might actually be the most prudent action to take.
Generally speaking, older law firm logos were often not conceived of as part of a comprehensive brand at all. Their brand identities were built up piecemeal over time—like crafting a one-room house in the old West where rooms were added one at a time as the family grew. Hey! We have a logo! Hey, let's do a brochure. Hey, we need a sell sheet! This was not brand-building. This was a reactive, tactical approach to creating marketing materials.
And if you review the original logos of certain law firms, they did not serve as true logos. Most were not distinct, nor memorable. There was likely little discussion as to what the logo stood for if anything at all.
While examples of successful logos that remain virtually unchanged—like Apple or Coca-Cola—strongly support the mantra of consistency, care should be taken that comparisons are made “apples to apples.“ There is a difference between consumer goods targeted to the mass market and legal services targeted to in-house counsel and executives in the C-suite. With some consumer products, a “bond” is formed by the user—a feeling of identity with the product/logo—that if changed could lead to negative reactions by customers who identified themselves with the essence and personality of the product. Think Harley Davidson. If the logo changed drastically, would there be a lot of laser tattoo removals? To date, we haven’t seen any law firm logos tattooed on arms.
When we conduct focus groups of law firm target markets and ask them to describe memorable logos, often there’s a struggle to recall any—except for maybe Skadden’s early adoption of red or the Orrick “O.” The hard data is just not there to support that many law firm logos have built up enough equity that could be wasted.
We do understand the value of consistency and that logos shouldn’t be redesigned just for vanity or other superfluous reasons. But logos and other brand elements should reflect the organization as it is and as it needs to be in order to compete. The more similarities an identity shares with its competitors, the less effective it is as a tool to burn the firm’s name into the viewer’s mind.
If a brand program, including the logo, inhibits business development goals—shouldn’t it be fixed? Marketers need to consider the changes in the legal market, the new demands and competition that firms are facing, and the fact that most buyers of legal service probably won’t remember the majority of law firm logos as most are designed—as a traditional serif font with multiple names shown stacked or in a row. Why saddle marketing efforts with a logo at odds with what the firm actually is today? Or worse yet, create confusion by having an antiquated logo slapped on a contemporary website or ad campaign.
Logos like Apple’s and Coca-Cola’s have been around a very long time. But these logos were not the original logos that were created at the companies’ inception. At some point, these companies made a drastic visual jump to the recognizable logo that we know today. We advocate for the jump and then to keep the logo consistent unless a strong and relevant reason demands a change.
Every law firm situation is different. And brand solutions that are appropriate and fit the firm’s marketing needs, culture, and longterm goals should be developed. Sometimes the logo should be kept, sometimes refined, or sometimes changed. But in all cases, the logo is just part of a full branding program that should always be evaluated in a thoughtful and serious manner.
Should your firm’s logo be changed? Ask yourself this:
- Is it differentiated enough from your competitors?
- Does it stand out and catch your eye?
- Is it authentic? Does it feel true to the firm?
- Is it meaningful? Does it start to tell a story about the firm?
- Is it progressive? Does it support the message that the firm is not standing still?
- Is it flexible?
- Will it work across different media, both electronic and print