The rise of the retro logo

17 March 2017 / Neil Pendrey

Seen the new Co-Op logo? Look familiar? How about NatWest? Or Kodak? Well, be prepared to see a whole load of new ‘old’ logos this year as more and more big brands turn to their archives in an attempt to realign themselves with their past values.

It’s no coincidence this trend is happening. As a direct reaction to the ‘anti-corporate’ feeling that is sweeping the world (as illustrated by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump), many major corporate brands are now being influenced by an overwhelming desire to simplify things, to communicate their history and change perceptions of them.

Take Co-Op for example. As a business they lost their way in recent years. A confusing brand strategy, negative press and a downturn in reputation had resulted in the company losing market share. Time to rethink things and get back to the heart of the business then.

And it’s much more than the simple reemergence of the iconic cloverleaf logo. Co-op employees across the UK will also be taking part in a ‘Back to being Co-op’ programme, designed to help educate them about the benefits of the Co-op membership and truly understand the brand’s values.

“This is what the Co-op is all about,” said Richard Pennycook, CEO of the Co-op. “Big business is often accused of taking money out of communities – we are putting it back in as we champion a better way of doing business for our members and their communities.

“Our intention is to return to paying a dividend again, but we also want to make the rewards for members who trade with the Co-op more meaningful and community focused. We’re already seeing good momentum across our businesses and this will drive further growth which our members and their communities will benefit from. It clearly demonstrates the Co-op difference being delivered every day.”*

The legal benefits of a bit of nostalgia

There’s other reasons for diving into the archives than just restoring a sense of heritage (and dishing out some rose-tinted spectacles whilst you’re at it) – from a legal standpoint it makes perfect sense. After all, if something has already existed for a long time, you’re unlikely to encounter many of the legal hurdles than a completely new symbol has to overcome to get approval on a global scale. It’s easier, and often more effective, to simply tweak what has gone before.

“What we’ve been seeing with Co-op, and arguably Coca-Cola before that, is a return to simplicity and a ‘stripping back’ of some of the clutter that some brands gather around themselves.”

Michael Johnson, Johnson Banks

But is it a good thing?

So, whilst everyone may soon jump on the retro bandwagon, as a business it’s worth considering a few things before starting to rummage in the attic for some inspiration from days gone by. Ask yourself, “were we a better business back then?” – if the answer is yes then maybe it is time to reflect on past values and hark back to your heritage, but if the answer is no, then close the door of the attic and look to the future instead.


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