I spent much of Saturday morning watching Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. I have previously made the pilgrimage to Omaha, waiting outside before dawn with a plan for our seats much like these guys. In the last two years, thankfully, they’ve streamed it live. I love listening to these two talk about business, American values, political influence in current and future business opportunities – all while sipping Cokes and chomping on See’s Candies peanut brittle. It’s wholesome, often nostalgic, and the banter between the two is remarkably entertaining (at times it’s like the two judges from the Muppets). Come to think of it, Warren and Charlie really need a podcast. One of the investing tips that they consistently hammer on is being sure you understand the business.
I think I get paint.
What I don’t get, however, is the use of this logo in the 21st century. When another patent attorney and former colleague of mine Jason Campbell posted his photo below to Facebook, I audibly gasped. Cover the Earth…with a can of spilt paint?!? The juxtaposition with “automotive finishes” doesn’t help as it makes me think of motor oil.
I’m technically a millennial, although it pains me to say that as I often feel more at ease with the likes of Warren Buffet. I’ve grown up knowing that lead paint is bad, the environment needs protection, and paint needs to be properly disposed.
All I see when I look at that logo is a giant, bright green Mr. Yuk sticker.
However, the logo is one of the oldest, still active marks on the Trademark Office’s register. It was first registered in 1906. When AdWeek asked about its relevancy and openly pondered its need for a redesign back in 2015, Sherwin Williams’ corporate communications director said at the time that it “is not meant to be taken literally, rather it is a representation of the our desire to protect and beautify surfaces that are important to people.” Does the use on this van really convey that to a consumer?
I have a fondness for nostalgic brands, but the message still needs to remain relevant in its time or it loses its luster. Attorneys use the term of “goodwill” frequently with marks – maybe a nostalgic brand loses some of that in changing times if it doesn’t adapt? We have seen much debate on climate change, the EPA, and national parks. Can’t Sherwin Williams deftly shift this from “Cover the Earth with-all-of-this-toxic-paint-that-we’ve-spilt” to something like “Cover the Earth…With Color” while maintaining rights in the logo? Don’t we all seek a more vibrant and colorful world?