After you work in marketing and branding long enough, there are certain things you just cannot unsee.
The same way a carpenter or sculptor can take one look at a piece and immediately assess the skill level applied by the creator, the same is true when it comes to brands.
No business or personal brand, is immune from evolution, change, and hopefully progression.
In most cases for large regional, national, or international brands, if a rebrand goes unnoticed it is largely considered well-done.
If the customer base notices, it usually is to get on social media and say how bad the “new logo sucks.”
And lots of time, it does.
When a rebrand is unveiled, the most common mistake is to completely distance the new brand from the previous. Which is an absolute waste of pre-existing brand equity.
Think about brand equity the same way you would as a home or property owner. If you suddenly had to move, would you quickly discard the money, time, effort and planning that you employed previously on your home?
No because that would be idiotic.
You want to get the value that you put into the home, even as you are exiting it, and receive fair market value.
From a marketing perspective, you’ve already spent so much time and money building a recognizable brand, going completely away from the most recognizable elements of your brand will cause more brand damage than good. As the old saying goes, “You dance with who brung you.”
Or you can completely ignore all that brand equity like The Gap did to the point where no one recognizes you anymore, and you finish the job Amazon started.
This is a great article about how there was a “gap’ in The Gap’s brand strategy.
Also interesting in that article is how JC Penny, a $17 billion dollar company, had a third-year graphic design student make their rebranded logo. Insane.
The point of this post thus far is that there is no brand/business/company on earth that is immune to having to strategize and execute the elements of their brand.
The logo is the first experience prospective clients will have with your company. Which makes it pretty freaking important. And even the biggest brands on earth screw it up.
But that doesn’t mean they all do. Case in point: The NFL and The NFL Network.
The NFL Network was launched in 2003. If any brand could get lazy about design, it is the NFL. But interestingly, they do the exact opposite. The NFL is intentional about their brand and how it is perceived, which is why they are as successful as any other brand on earth.
Sure, say what you will about how bland the Super Bowl logos have become over the years, and as a designer I miss when they would feature elements of that year’s host city in the design. (I have three Super Bowl programs hanging on the walls around me as I type this.)
Look how bland the last 12 Super Bowl logos are. But, at least the NFL is intentional and consistent.
But, I let it slide because it is part of an overall brand strategy amongst all NFL Media properties.
Over Thanksgiving 2022, I noticed a new more minimalist version of the NFL Network logo. So, marketing nerd that I am, I had to dig in and make sure I wasn’t losing my marbles.
Check it out:
The primary NFL Network logo and the new secondary logo for Saturday games and international games.
So why did the NFL have to re-brand one of its properties? Because the media (and business) landscape changed in its industry.
When Amazon Prime signed a deal with the NFL to become the exclusive broadcast partner of Thursday Night Football, the NFL had to adapt.
NFL Network debuted Thursday Night Football on November 23, 2006.
As part of this package, three games aired on Saturday nights, which were accordingly branded as Saturday Night Football.
Starting in 2008, NFL Network eliminated all but one of the Saturday night games and started their Thursday night package three weeks earlier than before. In the following season, all references to Saturday Night Football were dropped, with these games now being referred to as a “special edition” of Thursday Night Football.
So you’d literally have the title of “Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition.”
By 2016, the games had begun to carry the on-air branding Thursday Night Special (with some fleeting references to Thursday Night Football or TNF still present in on-air graphics),with Christmas Day games assigned to the Thursday Night Football package using the branding NFL Christmas Special.
But with the Amazon Prime deal beginning in 2022, and the NFL not having Thursday night games but still having exclusive broadcast rights to international games and late-season Saturday games, they had to rebrand the new product offering.
So viola, you have a new logo!
Not only is it a new product, but it is a sub-brand. So you want the logo to show consumers “Hey, we’re not exactly the Sunday NFL that you grew up with/are allegiant to, but we are a variation of the same thing you love – check us out/make no mistake!’
Plus, you do not want to piss off or compete with a new brand partner/client. Cooperation breeds success for both brands.
And so far, TNF games on Amazon are averaging 10+ million more viewers per week, +48% improvement over 2021 viewership.
With that, NFL Network began marketing the broadcasts as its “exclusive game series” and branding the Week 15 and 16 Saturday triple-headers under the blanket title Saturday Showdown.
Here is the new NFL Network logo deployed in a graphic from NFL.com:
Coming up with a logo is hard, developing a brand and the ensuing collateral is even more difficult.
But when you intentionally consider, reshape, and mold pre-existing brand equity, use coherent brand strategy as your guide, and partner with a trusted branding expert like us, there is no way you can do a worse job than The Gap.