Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Can I get a logo with a symbol on the side? And hold the hyphen please.

Wal*Mart unveiled it's new logo on July 1st as part of an ongoing evolution of its overall brand. One of the reasons for the redesign is to align the identity with Wal*Mart's CEO H. Lee Scott's goal of "transforming Wal*Mart into a more environmentally friendly corporation."  From my perspective it seems like they are trying to move beyond the unenviable position that they have held for about the last decade as the greediest and most unethical retail corporation on the planet. (I couldn't resist.)

I actually feel a little sorry for the design team that had to work on this project. The big box retail category is boring enough, not to mention that every designer around is going to shoot holes in your work just because Wal*Mart is the client. But putting all of my biases aside I want to critique the new look. I really wish I could see the strategy document because everything really does flows from this. I suspect that the brand manager set the bar low and settled for an evolution to the identity and I think that was the first mistake. Wal*Mart has a huge image problem and not that a new logo could fix that on its own but it could be a sign that a meaningful new direction was underway. There is a huge cultural shift underway in our country and if Wal*Mart want to capitalize on this and stay ahead of the curve they could of aimed for a revolution instead of an evolution. It obvious to me from the new logo that they're just trying to fix their image instead of trying to reinvent the company. 

Onto the logo itself. The typography is strikingly close to the Kmart type. You would think someone would of done their homework on this and created something a little more unique. The new typography is more appealing than where they were but with brands this visible you typically don't see a market leader almost picking up design language from a competitor.  

I'm comfortable as a consumer seeing the brand as Walmart instead of Wal*Mart. It will be interesting to see how much of Sam Walton continues to play a part in the brand story or if combining the name starts to fade him out of the conversation. I wouldn't be surprised if they are making a conscious effort to minimize some of their heritage as they expand deeper into foreign markets. 

The color selection isn't especially creative but it is appealing and a logical step from where they were. Again I think they are trying to shed a little bit of the red, white and blue and looking to become more color neutral internationally. The new palette does differentiate them a little bit better in the US from Target, JCPenny, Meijer and the almost bankrupt Kmart. Again it's a sideways move rather than a brand ready to make a statement.

I'm struggling with the star or sun or burst or whatever the symbol is at the end of the logotype. I know that sometimes it takes time to build equity into these elements but I really think that this was a lost opportunity. Walmart is a brand that's suffering from "Target Envy" and they probably mandated that a part of the new logo could be applied to all types of branding situations. It will probably come to represent "low prices" or "excitement about low prices" in their next campaign. Not only is this an uninspired mark it's strikingly similar to several icons already. Visually it seems disproportionate compared to the type and it borders on being unbalanced. 


One of my favorite quotes about logo design is from Paul Rand: "A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around". I hope Walmart really is changing for the better but that will remain to be seen. If its actions don't support the new identity we can look forward to a new redesign to improve its image once again in about 5 to 10 years. 

Overall grade: C-/D+ 

Once again a conglomerate gets what it deserves.

1 comment:

Nora said...

That's a great analysis. I took a psychology of advertising class in college, and all it did was reinforce all of the things my mom used to tell me while I was forced to grocery shop with her. It's interesting to see how things we take for granted--color scheme, use of symbols--work on our minds. It's even more interesting to see how a multi-bazillion dollar corporation could hire a designer that would fall short of transforming or improving their logo design. "Target envy" indeed.