Although they didn’t compare it to 90s hairdo, Apple and Starbucks are among some of the big companies to have changed their logos because, like Uber, they each felt they were somehow different than their former selves.
“Almost two years ago Shalin Amin and I started a journey to refresh how Uber looked so it could better represent what we were going to become,” Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick said in an announcement.
Is Uber ready to pull an Apple or a Starbucks?
Steve Jobs dropped the word “computers” from Apple’s title when he looked around and saw the company was already peddling out more than just computers, and Starbucks modified its own after expressing a desire for freedom from the shackles of just serving up coffee, according to an analysis in Harvard Business Review five years ago. The riskier of the two was Starbucks, the report explains, because the consumer had yet to associate the brand with anything other than coffee, whereas Apple’s product lines already communicated that it was more than just a computer store.
Does Uber already mean more to consumers than just being a car-hailing service for it to change up its logo, or is the new logo merely to promote a corporate strategy?
The latter was the criticism Starbucks faced, that cleaning up the siren and dropping “Starbucks Coffee” was “not acknowledging a customer reality.” Since that logo change, Starbucks went on to acquire Teavana and strike a deal with Square, then a start-up in Silicon Valley. Uber, in announcing the logo change, seems to think it’s somewhere in between Apple and Starbucks: kind of already doing other things (Apple) but wants to definitely do other things (Starbucks).
Uber no longer moves just people; we’re now moving food, goods, and soon maybe much more.
Another issue for companies looking for a refresh is that a new logo isn’t everything, experts say. In fact, a brand’s perception and imagery may matter more, which could be particularly relevant for Uber, a company that has been viewed by many as a dirty player.
One study looked at the effects that logos and images by tobacco companies have on the brain. It found that subliminal or non-explicit images of smoking — like Western-style scenes — triggered a greater neuro-response from smokers and former smokers than images of cigarette packs. In other words, what people associate with a brand may mean more than a logo.
“Brand is much more than a name or a logo,” wrote another expert for HBR. “Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small.”
In other words, Uber may need to do more than design a new logo if it wants to shake off its association with surge-pricing and shady business practice for a brand that customers will view as “reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.”
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