Tarnished Logos: Can Brands Bounce Back From Scandal?

BP logoIn the wake of the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf, petroleum giant BP is taking flak from all sides, including attacks on their logo. As the irony in BP’s “beyond petroleum” tagline becomes painfully obvious, GreenPeace is calling for a re-brand of the bright green and yellow BP logo, which had implied a certain sense of forward, eco-friendly thinking.

So can a company symbol become just too loaded with negative connotations to move forward? What if that same company has invested millions of dollars and several decades in branding? Here are three approaches that tarnished brands have taken in the past:

Unrecoverable. Catholic Church youth logo

Many would agree that it’s a good thing the Archdiocesan Youth Commission logo from 1973 is no longer in use. As described by Steven Heller from the AIGA, this award winning logo from 1973 and its unfortunate design have taken on a whole new meaning in light of the church’s sexual abuse scandals.

Tweaked Just Right.

After Martha Stewart was busted for insider trading, many thought her media empire might take a hit. But post jail-time, Martha’s company image is stronger than ever, thanks in part to a slight softening of her logo. The original hard edged, rectangular logo morphed into a softer, wreath-like circle that retained Martha’s ties to tradition but warmed up the company image considerably.

Over Tweaked.

When GM was facing major financial troubles and a weak lineup of cars, they decided to spend money on their products rather than redoing their logo and brand image. Unfortunately many brands fiddle too much with their logos, even without the pressure of a major PR catastrophe. Case in point–Pepsi reinvents their logo nearly once a decade, while Coca-Cola’s barely-touched logo has become an icon.

Only time will tell what BP’s brand recovery will look like. What do you think they should do?

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