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The True Test of an Iconic Brand? A Naked Logo
By: Ron Romanik
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As reported by the media and analyzed by the Harvard Business Review, Starbucks caused quite a stir when the company dropped the name from its primary logo. This was a dramatic and definitive decision executed with total commitment. Nike and Apple are two prime examples of a logo naturally finding its own wordless autonomy, but those were accomplished gradually over years.

It’s still unclear whether Levi’s is totally committed to a similar Starbucks experiment. Last year, the Turner Duckworth design agency convinced Levi Strauss to drop the name but also add a registered trademark symbol to avoid a completely naked logo. They are using this batwing logo, as some are calling it, in some promotions and as signage for store. Two boutique stores in L.A. and New York even backlight the logo in bat sign fashion.

Levi’s gradual rollout of the identity might be the wisest, as its deep history is both undeniably strong but also ingrained just as deep in the public’s imagination. Harley-Davidson has recently reclaimed and exploited its core rebellious brand identity to the highest level; it will be interesting to see if Levi’s can perform a similar marketing effort, started in part by their “Go Forth” campaign.

Maybe all these companies took their lead from the UK artist collective Dorothy, which illustrated the power of brands by dropping names from graphic logos. Another fun experiment is performed by Graham Smith, called “Brand Reversions,” where competing brands swapped logo identities. Looking at these examples, it is difficult to underestimate the breadth and depth of a carefully cultivated brand's presence in the public's consciousness.

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About the Author
Ron Romanik is principal of Romanik Communications, a brand consultancy outside Philadelphia founded with a mantra of “Authentic Stories. Resonant Tones. Sustainable Brands.”
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