Logos smiling at you: Wal-Mart, Kraft and more have new look

Being interested in branding and advertising as a natural part of my obsession with design, I’m always paying attention to visual changes especially when it comes to re-designs and re-branding of just about anything.  Like tons of designers I’m the kind of guy who goes “Oh, IKEA has  a summer sale, let’s see how they’ve updated their website. Oh, Starbucks added new menu items – let me take a brochure or look at My Starbucks Idea. Oh, the City of Toronto is re-branding their website, I’ll go to the meeting.” You could say it’s obsessive, but again I’m studying Graphic Design at OCAD!

This time, it’s more of an overall image update I’ve been looking at. And, there was an article recently in mainstream media, so here’s my update on Wal-Mart and Kraft, two examples of huge corporations refreshing their image. Below are the existing logos that you’ve definitely grown up seeing on a very regular basis.


Old Logos: Capital letters are generally used for shouting, which is not what shoppers want from mega corporations in today's economy!

Mitch Potter of the Washington Bureau wrote that the old uppercase Wal-Mart logo “screamed global retail domination with an all-American star in the middle is history”. I agree – I mean add McDonald’s to the Wal-Mart brand (as you see in many stores) and it’s the ultimate display of ridiculous mass consumerism with other negative connotations (at least from my perspective, watching Super Size Me and reading The Wal-Mart Effect).
To replace this logo though (if you haven’t already noticed by their commercials and flyers in the newspapers) is a softer, warmer look which Potter describes that it “now subliminally whispers, ‘We feel your pain. Let’s be friends’.” Kraft has also gone through a very similar conversion, earlier this year. Their new corporate logo is all lowercase, and yes, that’s right, smiles at you. There is even a burst of rainbow colour, to liven up the blah blue and red restricting shape of the logo we all know. And here, of course would be the new logos:
Now more approchable, the new logos hint of sunshine and rainbows, which is refreshing for mega corporations and consumers.

New Logos: Now more "approachable", the new logos hint of sunshine, rainbows and smiles, which is refreshing for consumers and of course corporations.

So, you may notice that these are only two examples of the trend of corporate re-branding. Why is it a trend? Because, of course, these corporations want to you to appear friendly during the tough economic times. That’s right, they want ot be your friends (after you give them all your money)!

Apparently this is happening on a lot of levels. Douglas Bard, a manager at a firm called Logo Design Guru, explains:

“Some clients want to convey a more positive image because of the tone of politics in Washington. But more are looking to find a way to reach people as we ride out the bottom of this historic downturn. If you are a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart that’s been accused of driving out the smaller mom-and-pop stores in America, the need is even greater today – they want to convey, `Hey, we’re friend, not foe. We understand you are hurting. And we’ve got bargains for you.'”
And, as many of us know, upper case lettering usually means shouting (especially with our use of Facebook, and emails). Clearly, consumers are in no mood to be shouted at anymore! Haven’t you noticed so many logos and branding change to lower case? In my opinion, it is a lot more pleasing visually, so I agree with a lot of it. As long as this all doesn’t just become the default, it seems to be working well for corporations, and and from my perspective is refreshing to the eye.
Update: About 5 months after releasing their new logo, mentioned above, Kraft decided to re-design it again!
Image: underconsideration.com