DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Rebranding in the Social Media Age and Recent Uproar Over UC Logo

Posted in Branding, Famous Marks, Guest Bloggers, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Networking, Trademarks

By Debbie Laskey , MBA

Did you see the sequels for Rocky, Star Wars, or Harry Potter? If you did, then you understand the concept of a movie sequel. Some characters are the same, and some plot lines continue, but above all, the brands remain the same. Directors and producers spend millions to make sure that the movie brands remain consistent for the viewing audience.

Recently, what I named, THE GAP LOGO – THE SEQUEL, took place. Thanks to Steve Baird and others here on DuetsBlog, some interesting viewpoints were shared. But, as an alum of UC-Berkeley and a scholarship interviewer for prospective students for many years as a member of the UC Alumni Association, I jumped at the chance to weigh in on this issue when Steve graciously offered me a trip to the DuetsBlog podium.

There seems to be something afloat these days when it comes to brand identity and corporate identity. Whether we can blame social media or tiny marketing budgets, the bottom line is that businesses as well as non-profits are trying to reinvent themselves without spending the necessary time to conduct marketing audits or brand audits. Therefore, we see haphazard marketing and too-many-to-count fragmented brands. These results confuse customers, prospective customers, and employees.

You may recall some redesigned logos that were unveiled during 2012. Twitter launched a new logo without its company name, just the blue bird. Then there were JC Penney, Wendy’s, eBay, and Microsoft. Logos are a piece of the marketing pie that allows a brand to form a relationship with consumers and customers. Consider the Nike swoosh or the Coca-Cola script – these logos reinforce the brand promise and are instantly recognizable.

Now, let’s return to the issue at hand: the proposed new logo for the University of California (UC), the public university system of the state of California that encompasses ten campuses: Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Davis, San Diego, Irvine, Santa Cruz, and Merced. Most, if not all, alums, students, and faculty indicate which campus they are affiliated with. The overarching “UC includes more than 220,000 students and more than 170,000 faculty and staff, with more than 1.5 million alumni living and working around the world. Starting in September 2012, UC introduced a new logo and identity. No design credit given. And no specifications shared as to how, or if at all, this logo affects the unique logos of each of the ten campuses.” However, the news hit the mainstream media in December.

While many asked, what were they thinking, here are my two cents. The original logo that included a book with the tagline, “Let there be light,” also included the year the university system began: 1868. How many brands include a year in their logo? This is why that element is important. The book and tagline represent education as well as the value of aspiring to learn more. The new proposed logo was blue with a yellow C for California. To be honest, I think the C was for cheap, since the logo looked cheap and couldn’t have cost much to design.

Anyhow, since we live in the era of instant communication, thanks to social media, everyone saw the new logo. Harken back to the logo fiasco when The Gap launched its logo two years ago: people were upset, but it took one week for the company to listen to all the comments in social media outlets to realize that they had to backtrack and revert to their original logo.

However, within just 24 hours of the announcement of the new UC logo, the UC Regents (the university’s leadership) realized that a mistake had been made and the original UC logo must return. Facebook was instrumental because a page sprung up immediately entitled “Stop the UC Logo Change,” and thousands of people “liked” the page and linked to the website where they could “sign a petition” to voice their aversion with the new logo. 50,000 signed the petition via change.org. What an uproar (pun intentional, since the Golden Bear is the mascot of Cal-Berkeley, and the Bruin is the mascot of UCLA)!

As a marketing professional, I believe these were unanswered questions:

  • What does the new logo tell customers/stakeholders?
  • How is the new logo’s story different from the old logo’s story?
  • How does the new logo fit with the university’s culture and mission statement?

In the words of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom to the President of UC: “Perhaps now is the time to return to the use of the old logo and allow the University community a cooling off period to concentrate on the long-term health of the University. Instead of being creative with the UC logo, we should be searching for creative solutions for funding the University of California.”

Bottom line, the proposed new logo was introduced without any input from the UC alumni, student, and faculty community. It came out of left field. The fact that it was nothing like the original and lacked any continuity with the original branding was at the core of the uproar. Not to mention, no one, not an alum, current student, faculty member, or prospective student would want to associate himself or herself with that new logo. Go Bears!

A final note: check out this video that attempted to explain the new logo, but failed miserably.