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Logo Design ... Pepsi and Obama

by Fred Showker

NOTE THIS Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once wrote:
      "Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again. "

Pepsi's "O" Ode to Joy for Oh-9

Adweek Columnist Barbara Lippert does an interesting critique of the logo campaign, and links it to TBWA / Chiat / Day's idea of optimism for the New Year. Barbara comments:

Spelling out a warm welcome with words like "yo," "aloha," "howdy" and "konnichiwa" (that last one's Japanese), the Pepsi spot "Word Play" ushered in 2009 with a big, graphic dose of optimism (or "optimismmm," as the spot preferred to spell it).

Old Pepsi, new Pepsi

Then last week, our friend John McWade fielded a question from one of his Before & After readers who asked:

"When I last went grocery shopping, I had the fortune of spotting boxes of the new Diet Pepsi logo side by side with the old design. I happen to love the new look. The sans-serif geometric font with the smiley e, paired with the new Pepsi circle, looks forward-thinking to me. I like the change, even if it's hard to tell that the Pepsi circle is supposed to be reminiscent of a smile or smirk."

The blog poster had previously posed the question on the Typophile site, which brought comments like
      Holy manoly, they are both so bad. a little wave going through the e? Please stop the nonsense, please. they have also destroyed the red-blue circle.

      This is a nice evolution of the logo, and the font goes well with it. Is it just me, or does the lowercase "e" look like it's belching? How appropriate.

... which brought even more comments like:
      I think the new packaging looks like it was made for either one of these: (a) slim cigarettes aimed at an aging but style-conscious female audience. (b) female hygiene products.

Which I think brings another dimension to the conversation -- wondering what would be the reactions of males as compared to females? Well, that's a whole different story. But then one astute reader revealed ...
      I wish the circle had been left as it was, now it looks like some airline logo. But it's arguably a move away from this

But John reigned them in and turned the question into an opportunity to explore logo design. John writes...

This is a big makeover. Pepsi says it will spend $1.2 billion (that's a b) over the next three years to re-brand its carbonated soft drinks plus its Gatorade and Tropicana lines. Considering the fantastic number of cans, bottles, Web and print ads, point-of-purchase displays, vending machines, billboards, sportswear, stadiums, on and on'worldwide -- that must be changed over, well, the scale is mind-boggling. So does the design boggle you?

... which brought a flurry of mixed reactions and observations ...

Robin said:
      The new design looks more bubbly and carbonated, so that can come across as being refreshing. I can't see what they're going for with the change in the circle logo, though. It looks a bit like the various sports team logos, so maybe they will be tying in the Gatorade logo in with it, too?

Erica said
      It's interesting too that the Pepsi site uses their logo to emulate the Obama campaign logo (www.pepsi.com) Their brand is changing, as is our country, and they look alike, and that will attract customers.

Kate chided:
      I think they're tying to hitch their wagon to Obama... .it's too much like his campaign logo. So it loses credibility for me.

Noel observes:
      I think the logo looks like someone couldn't get a decent grasp on their bezier curves. What I find interesting is that the "e" mimics the curves of the original logo, which would have been a lovely way to tie the two together.

Then Bill brought sanity:
      One of my designers and I were talking about the apparent strategy differences between the Pepsi and Coke brand identities.
Coke: tradition, Norman Rockwell, timeless
Pepsi: pushing forward, young, design-focused
Coke designs have been pretty consistent over time, and given their huge brand equity they can't afford to deviate.
If you look back at Pepsi designs* over the past 20-30 years or so, you see that with each design, they seem to be pushing the design envelope for that time into a more cutting-edge and futuristic direction. So my conclusion is Pepsi's brand revolves around regular change. As a designer, I like this, since it gives their design folks more freedom to push their design into new directions.

CantHelpMktg also brought it all together with his professional viewpoint:

I work in the marketing department of a major consumer packaged goods company and we've been staring at this (mostly incredulously) for a while ... our Creative Director likes to give us these as exercises. ;)
      One... it shares shapes with an existing brand that is fairly familiar to people: Girl Scouts of America. It evoked that for some of us.
      Two... Pepsi has gone through alot of public effort to be "edgy"... the "hip" soda versus Coke. This logo softens that image.
      Three... the design shares many traits with generic store-brand products. A Pepsi Product, Mtn. Dew, also was redesigned and reminded us of the old logo for Safeway's Mtn. Breeze (a 'Dew competitor). My wife also observed this, and she's not in marketing or design in any form (i.e. "average consumer"). Now, while the logo seems just plain aweful, the product differentiation is better. Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and the other varieties are much easier to identify (per MrsK, it's less cluttered, which is a "brand" improvement, but we're speaking of the "logo" here).
      I think the logo itself follows good principals (round logo + round typography, etc.), but overall execution lacks the proper feel for Pepsi's self-proclaimed younger demographic.
      The problem is separating "brand" from just the "logo" since a good logo on lousy branding is just as bad as a lousy logo on good branding. We've done it before, and it's a costly mistake.

But Ron retorts:
      ... the logo doesn't appeal to me at all. I asked several of my younger friends (12, 16, 18 and 21) what they thought and they just shrugged with a no-big-deal attitude. The logo lacks the wow-factor here.

So, what's your take?

Now, let's get back to the original question(s) ...
When is a logo not a logo?
Is it a smile?
Is it a wave for a surfer?
Do you get the Obama tie-in?
Do you think it was worth the trouble and expense?
NOTE THIS "How long have they been putting stuff in circles?"


Well, to answer that, we'll need to go to the
logo design NEXT PAGE: Logos in the Round, page 3. . .


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