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  1. 1. Tony Spaeth Identity 6 Kirby Lane North Rye, NY 10580 914 967 6018 2000 “Sign Language” is Tony Spaeth’s eleventh annual report on noteworthy corporate identity programs. Programs are chosen for their strategic interest and creative excellence, but more importantly as lessons in leadership. Reprinted with permission of ACROSS THE BOARD The Conference Board magazine March / April 2001
  2. 2. Tony Spaeth is an independent identity consultant. He specializes in corporate positioning, diagnosis of corporate and brand identity needs, clarification of strategic vision through identity, and nomenclature systems and name development. Prior to establishing his own practice, Spaeth was a consulting principal of the identity firm Anspach Grossman Portugal (now Enterprise IG) and directed its naming activities. He is a graduate of Princeton and received his Masters in Business Administration from Harvard. Tony teams with graphic designers and agencies to provide total identity services. Recent clients include Sony Corporation, State Street, Dow Jones, Flowserve Corporation with Jack Summerford, and Orbital Sciences, Footstar and Celera Genomics with Nat Connacher. This “2000” article, as well as “1999,” “1998,” “1997”and “1995/1996,” can be viewed or downloaded at
  3. 3. “Sign Language” The best of last year’s new logos spoke volumes about corporate leaders. By Tony Spaeth C losing out the 20th century, we’ve picked 14 new corporate brands worth noting for their creative excellence and strategic interest. Some reflect a reconfiguration of the corporation— a merger, a spin-out, a split (like the Andersens), or just a rearrangement of parts (MCI Worldcom)— while others are straightforward, managementinitiated rebrandings that reposition and renew the corporate brand. All, however, reveal a great deal about the presence and effectiveness of corporate leadership in shaping the corporate brand. “The Amoco is silent.” Indeed, shareholders are expected to vote “Amoco” out of the company’s name at April’s annual meeting. Early on, group chief executive John Browne T he historic (largest-ever) merger of British Petroleum and Amoco (formerly Standard Oil Indiana) took effect Dec. 31, TONY SPAETH, a Rye, N.Y., corpo- 1998, creating “BP Amoco.” But rate brand consultant, reports you won’t find a BP Amoco here each year on noteworthy logo; as some American identity programs. Additional employees joked at the time, reviews and reflections can be decided that perpetuating two names would be a poor foundation for a global power brand. Another goal would be to lose the “P” heritage, as in Petroleum. Worldwide branding firm Landor seen at A C R O S S T H E B O A R D M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 4 5
  4. 4. Associates was retained to reposition this giant firm and to rebrand its thousands of retail locations. A strategy so bold deserved an exciting execution and got it in the August brand launch. BP’s distinctive green-yellow colors survived and were transformed into a flowery burst of sun and earth and energy. It’s a brilliant platform for promises of lower emissions, solar power, and the tagline “Beyond Petroleum.” A t the end of 1999, Exxon acquired Mobil to set the newer “largest-ever industrial merger” record, upstaging BP Amoco. (In heritage terms, that’s Standard Oil of New Jersey buying Standard Oil of New York.) CEO Lee Raymond chose the alternative branding strategy: combining the two names in a merely corporate brand while retaining two independent retail identities (plus Esso), as if to say, “Aren’t two global powerbrands better than one?” Well, yes, for a while, anyway, but the product is an invisible commodity. Ultimately, economics favor integration, and a “Who’s kidding who?” attitude prevails. A corporate-only change like this is a lot less costly, and faster, than retail redesign. The downside: ExxonMobil won’t get the benefit that BP will reap from fresh new stations. ExxonMobil took three months to organize its identity team, and three more to pick worldwide consultants Lippincott & Margulies, who designed the mark and new system in four months. The mark is calibrated to coexist as a parent to the retail brands, using the Exxon x’s and the lowercase Mobil letterforms. As Raymond put it, “We think the look and feel of it reflect our company’s chief attributes—the combined strengths and synergies of the former Exxon and Mobil.” Executionally, it’s nice work, yet strategically it’s a work in process, to be resolved someday in a brand that looks more clearly to the future than to its own past. As with DaimlerChrysler, it’s a two-proud-companies message serving only the momentary need to “sell” a merger (or to sell an acquisition as a merger). 4 6 M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 A C R O S S I n the Pharmacia and Worldcom programs, 2000 gave us two illustrations of a possible (indeed common) next step in the merger process, which is to lose one of the two heritage names. First, remember Pharmacia & Upjohn and its Stone Age rock symbol? Erected by a previous CEO, the esoteric rock had come to symbolize the clash of cultures in a troubled merger and was called “the Upjohn tombstone” by the American contingent, who found the purple rock a little on the weird side. Following Pharmacia’s March 2000 merger with Monsanto, CEO Fred Hassan took advantage of the opportunity to jettison the purple rock and, with some regret, “Upjohn” as well, in order to focus on the simple, globally declarative (indeed preemptive) “Pharmacia” name. The design solution, credited to Chicago’s Crosby Associates but actually suggested by Monsanto’s Bob Shapiro, is deliberately conservative. Hassan was comfortable returning to the reserved corporate personality of a mainstream player and was focused on instantly aligning the Searle/Monsanto and Swedish Pharmacia cultures. As a result, the logo borrows its purplish-blue color and its one-legged “A” from Monsanto’s Searle logo, and the cultures are as one. That’s a neat act of leadership through design. F ollow the bouncing star. Two years ago, on the occasion of Worldcom’s 1998 acquisition of MCI, I noted that “the possibly unintended message created by swiveling and extending MCI’s ‘starburst’ over the Worldcom adjunct is that MCI has acquired Worldcom, which, in motion to the right, may be trying to escape. . . . By so clearly combining two still distinct brands, this logo will always point to their separate pasts T H E B O A R D
  5. 5. rather than their unified future. Draining both brands of their prior equity, it is the opposite of a powerbrand.” In 1999, the business fundamentals came into alignment with the identity fundamentals. As in the previous case, one of the two heritage names was lost when, in mid-April, “MCI” quietly disappeared from the corporate name, and the star shifted one more letter to the right. (In the process, it lost another little piece of its design integrity, its dotting-the-i function.) And as the bottom dropped out of long-distance profits, in November CEO Bernard J. Ebbers announced Worldcom’s reconfiguration as two tracking stocks, to be called separately Worldcom and MCI. So what’s next? Will we see a brand-new MCI logo? Or a revival of the 1996 starmark (designed by Interbrand) and, in that event, a new Worldcom logo? Or just two loose stars, headed in opposite directions? F or sheer drama, the rebirth of Universal Foods as Sensient Technologies, an imaginative act of corporate leadership on the part of CEO Kenneth Manning, takes this year’s honors. Like IR’s Henkel, Manning was stuck with a largely obsolete image—in this case, the image of a commodity-food company that had instead become a leading supplier of flavors, fragrances, and colors for such applications as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even inkjet inks, as well as foods and beverages. The direction Manning provided to consulting firm Corporate Branding was, “Get us out of food, into technology, and make us gigantically visible.” He chose the evocative name “Sensient” and a straightforward wordmark embellished with a swoosh-like wave, a good example of design that manages to be distinctively creative without trying too hard. A lmost always, branding consultants (myself included) oppose the use of initials to replace outdated names—initials familiar to insiders but meaningless to the outside world, and expensive to “seat” without big budgets and millions of exposures. But the case for this particular change is strong. It helps that Ingersoll-Rand’s audiences are industrial, easily reached at minimal expense. The problem with a famous name like Ingersoll-Rand can be that everyone knows what it is, but they’re wrong. IR has become a highly diversified industrial-products company whose reputation remains limited to construction equipment. As newly arrived (from Textron) CEO Herbert Henkel put it: “We haven’t done a good job of getting the word out . . . we still have the image of being the rock-drill company.” For the time being, the corporate name is unchanged, while IR aggressively rebrands its many products and businesses. “We want IR on everything,” Henkel said. Design credit goes to the New York firm DMCD, which obviously believes in initials. The logo is direct and strong, easy to work with, and only as original as it needs to be. A C R O S S S yngenta is the vehicle in which the pharmaceutical giants Novartis and AstraZeneca have vested their agribusiness units, charged “to deliver better food to a better world through extensive crop solutions.” Chairman Heinz Imhof and CEO Michael Pragnell jointly chaired the identity steering committee and retained the Zurich-based consultants Interbrand Zintzmeyer & Lux (whose Frankfurt office developed the name). Their goal, no doubt shared by the parent companies, was that this spin-out have “a clear personality of its own,” a goal clearly achieved in the new Syngenta mark. The name itself, not the first choice but the best available (and functionally superb), is a T H E B O A R D M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 4 7
  6. 6. mixed blessing. The company says it means “bringing people together”—“syn” reflects synergy and synthesis, while “gens” means people. But to be blunt, most of us will more quickly see “synthetic” and “genetic,” meanings politically charged, although absolutely relevant to this company’s true identity. From this perspective, the design strategy— an embellished wordmark, rather than a symbol—is especially well-advised. Our attention is focused on the name itself, not distracted by a separate symbol, but the leaf makes the name fresh and “green,” neatly overpowering its verbal risks. The client team rejected the option of a symbol (preferred by the designers) and are to be commended for it. Note, as well, the relative restraint and simplicity of the Syngenta logo. Like Sensient’s, it is no more distinctive than it needs to be. H oward Hughes lives? In one of the more curious transformations of the year 2000, Hughes chairman and CEO Michael T. Smith converted the company’s 1998 space-age swoosh into a logo—complete with a “speedline”—more appropriate to a 1950s industrial company. Identity change is a powerful weapon, to be handled with care. Sometimes it’s better to keep it in the holster. The Hughes communications goal was clear enough. Having sold its defense-electronics businesses to Raytheon, its auto electronics back to General Motors, and its satellite manufacturing to Boeing, “Hughes is now a pure-play digitalcommunications company,” Smith said, “and we want the world to know about it.” That is an assignment for an advertising campaign, not necessarily for a logo change, especially when the 1998 logo (cliché or not) is more consistent with the desired message than the industrial-weight 2000 logo (designed by GlobalWorks, a multicultural Website-design agency). logo. Indeed, Covisint says, “We don’t have a symbol; we have a tool.” It’s a logo-design strategy uniquely appropriate for this cooperative venture of Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Nissan, and Renault, created to build a common b-to-b exchange portal for the auto companies. It says, in effect: “Our customers, their brands, and their products are the heroes of the Covisint identity; we’re just the process that connects them with one another.” And that’s literally what the logo/tool does. (“We call it the Connector.”) It is shown above as a corporate mark, but in other configurations, it links itself as a sub-brand to one of its founding partners, or links products to applications, and so on. And Covisint hasn’t yet named a CEO, so credit for this unusually creative branding decision goes to a multicompany-venture team, led (in its communications planning) by Ford Motor Co.’s Alice Miles. When Landor Associates showed five Covisint design ideas, the team focused instantly on the Connector for its ingenuity message, as well as its connection message. The name “Covisint,” incidentally, was generated by the inside Miles team, who were fortunate to find something combining collaboration, vision, and integrated solutions. T he rebranding of Nationwide gives us another design (like Covisint’s) more conceptual than graphic, a tool as well as a symbol. Three years ago, seeing tectonic shifts in the financial-services industry and the rise of “brand” in the world at large, chairman and CEO Dimon McFerson commanded a sweeping review of the Nationwide brand: “Don’t rule I f you go to, you have to look carefully to find the company’s symbol, a design device that links one element to another. This is the year’s most unconventional 4 8 M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 A C R O S S T H E B O A R D
  7. 7. out eagles, but go wherever it takes us.” With Interbrand’s assistance, the branding team designed the logo to be far more approachable, emphasizing a worldwide partnership with the customer in a broader range of relationships. The bird would indeed vanish, for it was redundant, domineering, chauvinistic, and suggestive of a postal service or an airline (indeed, it’s remarkably like American Airlines’ eagle). Among other options, Interbrand offered the “frame” concept. McFerson’s team knew it was unconventional, subject to criticism if not ridicule, yet so appropriate it might serve for another 45 or 50 years. Most often it will be seen superimposed on a photograph, framing a customer. But whether addressed to customers, brokers, agents, or employees, the message is: “Intentionally, our identity leaves something open to your imagination. It’s our hope that you will put yourself in the picture.” L ast August, the world’s largest consulting firm and the world’s largest accounting firm bitterly parted company. Andersen Consulting, denied further use of its name, would become Accenture. But that’s another story. While negotiation and arbitration played out under the leadership of worldwide managing partner Jim Wadia, Arthur Andersen’s partners had three years to prepare for the separation. Wadia’s task included reinvention of the venerable firm’s image, if only to fill the gap left by the consultancy’s departure. As marketing manager Suzanne Gylfe put it: “Our brand was known for professionalism, security, stability, and intelligence, but we now needed to portray speed, success, and an ability to navigate through the new economy.” In Wadia’s words, “Our ability to become a leader in the new economy depends on . . . the enthusiasm with which each of us lives our brand.” Wadia’s executive committee worked for a year and a half with the consulting firm Enterprise IG. Given a range of symbolic options, they chose the boldest: a bright orange-red sphere, to be understood not as a static graphicdesign element but as a dynamic concept. (The A C R O S S news release said, “Arthur Andersen’s new visual identity . . . represents the organization’s enduring integrity, inventiveness, and global ‘one-firm’ approach.”) Unfortunately, you are most likely to see the orange ball and orange-and-red Arthur Andersen wordmark in static print advertising, where it’s just another orange ball whose relevance is not immediately evident. To appreciate the designers’ intended “bold, inventive, and maverick spirit,” you have to visit and see the sphere floating in unexpected places. Incidentally, the orange sphere’s designer, Will Ayers, commented on the trend toward replacement of the flat symbols of classic modernism with modeled or shaded three-dimensional symbols. (See Nationwide [above] and 3Com [below]; another example is the replacement of the Saul Bassdesigned AT&T symbol, known affectionately to insiders as the Death Star, with a shaded-ball version.) Ayers believes that logo design, previously driven by old-media limitations like poor newspaper reproduction, is today more often driven by new-media possibilities, which sounds about right. T ech company 3Com, too, has moved from a classic 2-D design to a hipper 3-D idea. In a “radical strategic transformation” (as chairman Eric Benhamou put it), 3Com sold the Palm business, the core of its identity, and felt the need to reinvent itself as a brand rather than a technologyfocused company. CEO Bruce Claflin led the rebranding effort in this spirit: “When you are hoping to create something new and important, you must have the courage to fully commit yourself and the entire business to the transformation.” The Interbrand consultants’ research led them to articulate this guiding brand idea: “Where remarkable things happen effortlessly.” This in turn led to the design idea of three connected rings—the third being connected wirelessly, if that is not too subtle a thought. (Although 3Com calls them “rings,” Interbrand prefers to call them “circles.” But why fight it? “Three-ring circus” is a wonderful expression of abundant creative energy, and a net positive.) Claflin reported: “The new logo has created a lot of buzz and curiosity, and that’s just what we had in mind.” T H E B O A R D M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 4 9
  8. 8. T P reparing for the merger of Bell Atlantic with GTE Corp., Charles R. Lee and Ivan Seidenberg, who would together share the new company’s CEO title, agreed to seek a new name. That’s never an easy decision, but the alternatives—Bell Atlantic, or GTE, or mixed together like “General Bell Atlantic Tel”—looked worse. The new company would be more global in its ambitions, and this was an opportunity to escape the “Atlantic” boundaries as well as the “Plain Old Telephone Company” image. Although it sounded strange at first, “Verizon” is an excellent, distinctive name—one with nice associations and that is easy to pronounce everywhere. It was picked from names considered in 1996 (when Bell Atlantic acquired Nynex but decided to keep its name), but not before three identity firms got involved, and the new master list grew to 8,000 candidates. Regrettably, the Verizon logo is less than excellent. Simplicity is a cardinal rule in logo design: There shall be only one graphic device, one gimmick, one dingbat. Verizon has two, and because the V and Z elements compete with one another with no visible logic, the logo is cluttered and clumsy. There are technical design flaws, too, that make it difficult to work with; for example, in reverse, the red letterforms against black are so much less visible than the white letters that one first sees veri on. How can a Fortune 50 company brand itself with mediocre design? Could it be a combination of changing horses in midstream and too many cooks? Verizon reports that design credit “for original design concept” goes to Landor, which was retained for identity design, and assigns credit for “logo refinement and application design” to DeSola Group, a New York-based consultancy retained for implementation. Landor confirms its design of the V concept and a simple wordmark. DeSola confirms that it added the red Z to the wordmark, in the belief that Landor’s work lacked impact (as in, “not enough red”). So, quite naturally, the V and Z could be expected to express conflicting design esthetics, and they do. One can’t help wondering whether top management’s responsibility for this outcome fell between the two co-leaders’ stools. 5 0 M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 1 A C R O S S T H E o end on a more positive note, consider the rebranding achieved for a Verizon competitor, France Télécom, by CEO Michel Bon. The goal: accelerate conversion of a government-owned, domestic-fixed-line telephone monopoly, expressed so well in the former logo (designed in pre-Internet 1990), into a global, fast-moving, customer-driven communications competitor. An early decision in the two-year process was to stay with the France Télécom name. “If we changed our name, we would put ourselves on exactly the same level as any other start-up in the field of telecommunications, and there are so many,” said Marie-Claude Peyrache, group VP of corporate communications. So rebranding would rely on design. The ampersand, or “et” logo (three swooshes!), clearly changes the brand. It is a graceful yet powerful symbol, adding style and vigor to the enterprise. I am not sure “et” speaks to relationships, as Landor’s Paris office intended (“you and me, France Télécom and its customers”) so much as it suggests an unlimited sense of possibilities. The feeling that the orange “com” is one touch too cute is a mere quibble. Although the corporate-identity profession has been a predominantly American invention, it often seems that European CEOs (like Michel Bon) make better clients, more personally engaged and more respectful of the process. Time, budget, and commitment were no problem at France Télécom; 800 employees, for example, were brought in to be trained in the meaning of the new identity and the objectives of the change. The cost? Including offices, telephone booths, and the vehicle fleet, “30 million euros, in two years,” Peyrache said. But in perspective, that is “less than 5 percent of our total advertising investment for one year.” FROM BT TO FRANCE TÉLÉCOM and points in between, the best of these programs prove again that for a leader seeking significant institutional change, nothing can offer a bigger bang for the buck than strategically sound, creatively excellent rebranding. ♦ B O A R D