A Branding Challenge for market Leaders
Microsoft has launched the latest evolution of their brand mark at the opening of its new store in Boston. The task of keeping a brand’s visual language fresh and relevant to the market is critical ( we recently wrote post on how and why the best brands in the world keep their visual language fresh and relevant – you can read it here). As the market Microsoft operates within continues to evolve and as the Microsoft business and the products and services it sells evolve along with it, it’s important for the brand to keep-up. The question is – does this latest brand identity move the brand forward?
Microsoft’s previous brand mark was possibly one of the most instantly recognized logos in the world. The waving, flag-like coloured window and bold, italicized type design have become synonymous with the business and its products since its launch in 1987. The visual elements of the brand mark and their status of instant recognition have become valuable assets for Microsoft. We at Truly Deeply firmly believe that brands need to move forward in a strategically directed manner to maintain or grow market leadership. However – in my view, this latest change to the Microsoft brand identity is a backwards step.
As a market there are clear visual codes that communicate brand values such professional, dynamic, global, technical expertise, confidence and leadership. Whilst the visual language of the previous Microsoft brand mark was beginning to feel dated – it unequivocally leveraged this visual code and communicated those valuable brand cues to the market. In fact this brand identity when launched 25 years ago helped shift the visual code for global software and technology businesses in this direction. As these visual cues have become more widely used by a range of brands in both a relevant and irrelevant manner, there is no doubt it was time for Microsoft to once again strike out into new territory and re-assert their brand leadership. The problem as I see it is the conservative approach the brand has taken.
The new Microsoft brand visual language does not boldly stake a new direction, but retreats to an established set of aesthetic cues. Gone is the dynamic energy of the flowing window and italic logotype, replaced by a static, retro version of the window and a bland, contemporary logotype set in the typeface Segoe. Sure as the video below shows, the rationale for the identity design is carefully considered and highly logical, even functional.
But what’s been overlooked is the demand for an identity to be a dynamic and memorable reflection of the brand and how it seeks to position itself in the market. I feel certain that the visual cues the new brand mark communicates of Professional whilst Static, Conservative, Uninspired and Unimaginative are not a true reflection of the brand’s proposition and personality.
Here’s the official rationale from the Microsoft blog:
‘It’s been 25 years since we’ve updated the Microsoft logo and now is the perfect time for a change. This is an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft as we prepare to release new versions of nearly all of our products. from windows 8 to windows phone 8 to Xbox services to the next version of office, you will see a common look and feel across these products providing a familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs. this wave of new releases is not only a reimagining of our most popular products, but also represents a new era for Microsoft, so our logo should evolve to visually accentuate this new beginning.’
‘The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. we are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. the ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. that’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.’
‘The logo has two components: the logotype and the symbol. For the logotype, we are using the Segoe font which is the same font we use in our products as well as our marketing communications. the symbol is important in a world of digital motion (as demonstrated in the video). The symbol’s squares of color are intended to express the company’s diverse portfolio of products.’
‘Starting today, you’ll see the new Microsoft logo being used prominently. it will be used on microsoft.com – the 10th most visited website in the world. it is in three of our Microsoft retail stores today (Boston, Seattle’s University Village and bellevue, wash.) and will shine brightly in all our stores over the next few months. It will sign off all of our television ads globally. and it will support our products across various forms of marketing. fully implementing a change like this takes time, so there may be other instances where you will see the old logo being used for some time.’
‘We’re excited about the new logo, but more importantly about this new era in which we’re reimagining how our products can help people and businesses throughout the world realize
their full potential.’
– Jeff Hansen (General Manager, Brand Strategy, Microsoft)
If you’d like to discuss the right approach to evolving your brand’s visual identity – why not give us a call, we’d love to direct you to the best possible outcome.
We’ve been unable to ascertain the credits for the images used in this post. If anyone can advise their provenance we’d love to credit the rightful owner/s.