This is a guest post by Alisa Gilbert* exploring the recent United Airlines & GAP rebrandings and how consumer emotional attachment played its part.
Emotional attachment to a brand is more commonplace than you would think. In fact, this type of consumer attachment accounts for a large bulk of the people who remain fiercely loyal to a certain brand, even if there are alternate equally viable options available. Consumer attachment to a brand in some cases also extends to an emotional attachment to the brand’s logo, which means that graphic and logo designers can be creating not only the face of a particular brand, but also something that consumers will cherish and fiercely protect.
Editor’s note: See article ‘Branding, Identity & Logo Design Explained‘
Even though it may seem unlikely, research published in the Gallup Management Journal suggests that almost any industry can lure in fiercely devoted customers (Customers’ Emotional Attachment Extends to More Products and Services Marketers Thinks). A whopping 27% of customers were found to have emotional bonds with mass retailers, and 37% were connected to their banks, the research stated. Even electronics consumers and online retail customers had distinct brand loyalty. The benefit of brand loyalty for businesses is that these customers can be counted upon to provide a constant stream of revenue. They are also more willing to sample anything new that the business may release and can be a good indicator of whether or not the new product will be profitable to the general population. This type of devotion does not just stop with the brand’s name and products in many cases, it also includes the brand’s logo. For this reason, it is important that businesses consider the importance of something like their logo.
Logos act as the face and identifying marker for a company, which can somewhat explain why customers can be so fiercely protective of them. In September, United Airlines and Continental Airlines were in talks of a merger that would result in United Airlines getting rid of their iconic U-shaped blue and red tulip logo, designed by Saul Bass. In replacement, the United Airlines jets would immediately have the Continental Airlines globe logo placed on them. This announcement sparked a storm of protest on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, a protest group was created to implore the company to save the current tulip logo, mainly because to consumers, that logo signified the entire rich history of United Airlines as well as all of the memories and good feelings associated with the company (An Emotional Attachment to a Brand). The new logo, on the other hand, was empty of history. Though the jets essentially remain the same, the new logo signified a new brand management strategy, alienating United Airlines’ previously devoted customers. And so it stays.
A similar outcry surrounded clothing retailer Gap, when it decided to change its own logo in early October. This simple move, which came relatively unannounced, caused a stir in the graphic design as well as consumer communities. Even the retailer’s attempt to disguise the change as a crowd sourcing experiment did not silence detractors of the new logo. In the end, Gap’s customers remained fiercely protective of the company’s classic logo and many found the retailer’s sudden switch to the new logo albeit a brief one as a betrayal of consumer trust. Gap has since reinstated its old logo, a move that showed how powerful consumer attachment to a logo can be.
Consumer attachment to a brand and logo only emphasizes how important the work of a logo designer is, especially in light of the two fairly recent examples of outcry over proposed logo changes for United Airlines and Gap.
Image sources: Underconsideration & Shutterstock
*Alisa Gilbert writes on the topics of bachelor degrees and welcomes your comments at her email: alisagilbert599 AT gmail.com.