Logos Should Be Designed with Meaning and Why JCPenney Should Go Back to Its Roots

It’s always amazing to me that there are certain companies who change brand marks faster than governors get voted out of office. I have absolutely no idea why this happens. A perfect case in point is JCPenney.

While writing another post about pricing, I inadvertantly stumbled across the new logo for the store. I wasn’t aware there was a new logo. There is and this is the new logo:

The really sad part about all of this is that as soon as you go to another website you’ll forget this logo and when someone says JCPenney, you’ll remember this logo:

The reason for this effect is that there is so much brand cache in the old logo that it overshadows the new one. In this regard, the company’s best interest is then to keep the old logo, especially in the light of new strategy that aims to take the store back to the times when the old logo meant something.

Considering the design of the new logo on it’s own, two things jump out at me. The first is it’s amazing ability to inspire absolutely no subconcious corporate allegory. The old logo on it’s own has no story but it had a lifetime to make it up. What does a little blue box packed into a big red box mean, really?

When they teach you how to design logos, the first thing they say is that the logo has to mean something. The meaning could be easy to see or just instill a vague emotion. The smallest things can do a lot. To do this, the designer thinks about a lot of things, like how the company would like to be positioned, what the company is known for, what it ultimately would like to stand for as well as a number of environmental and competitive factors.

Ideally, the designer takes these thoughts and works within the constraints of the competitve market to create a mark that unequivically represents the company and brand. The next step is to create a series of rules and procedures to make sure the brand is operated in the proper manner without compromizing it’s goals.

The branding is then installed and the merits of not adding to or diluting the work is given. Generally, this is done to explain that a brand’s worth is enhansed by it’s longevity of continuance. The longer the mark is in place and unharmed, the greater the value becomes, all other things remaining equal – just like the old JCPenney logo.

The other thing that strikes me is the one thing the logo does make me think of: a big box store from the `80s. I don’t know what benefits that gets JCPenney, aside from getting people excited we might find a Chess King next door.

The interesting thing is while corporate branding seems to have bought into the logo, at the store level, they plainly have not. I am not sure if it’s a workers revolt or just a glacieral and amazingly terrible ‘soft roll-out’ – which could be the subject of another blog post, all by itself. This gives me hope that the new governance may come to their senses, ditch the new logo (and hire me as a brand consultant, as well:) and get back to the one that makes us remember why we like to go to JCPenney .

One Reply to “Logos Should Be Designed with Meaning and Why JCPenney Should Go Back to Its Roots”

  1. Got their new catalog. At first I didn’t realize jcp meant JCPenney then I started thinking wow they spent a lot on this catalog with it’s heavy gauge paper, flipping pages then I’m thinking what a waste! I really just didn’t see anything that made me think that this was a catalog just a picture magizine but then on page 90 there is a girl that looks like she’s from “The Walking Dead” . I just didn’t notice what was wearing was too shocked at how sickley she looked. I hope she is getting medical help. You’d think certainly the camera man would have noticed. I thought this sort of stuff was being stopped. Would like a catalog I could shop from.

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