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TESS VIGELAND: It’s only been a couple of years since Ask.com unceremoniously dumped Jeeves the butler from its branding. Now the search engine says it will cater to women’s questions about recipes, entertainment and health, instead of trying to compete with Google. Re-branding certainly isn’t new as a corporate growth strategy. Xerox is working to change its image. The company has a new symbol that’s getting the once-over at a trade show in Boston this week.
Jennifer Collins reports.
JENNIFER COLLINS: The branding world is no place for a slacker. Take Xerox’s new logo. It has to catch your eye when you’re running off copies, when you’re clicking around cyberspace and when you’re watching it fly by. That’s a Ducati 1098R. Xerox sponsors a team of the racing superbikes. Soon, they will all bear a bright red spherical logo alongside the Xerox name. The emblem may be tough to read as it whizzes past at 150 miles an hour, but Xerox is hoping it will deliver a new message about the company.
RICHARD WERGAN: The redesign of Xerox is about asking customers and consumers to take a mental pause.
That’s Richard Wergan, the company’s vice president of branding.
WERGAN: There has been a perception gap in the marketplace, and an assumption that people know what Xerox is about.
And Xerox is still in the copier business, but it also sells software, consulting services, systems to manage data. It’s got operations all over the world and even on the International Space Station, and that bad balance sheet it was carrying? That’s changed, too. Profits were up 79 percent last quarter. Wergen says the new logo is part of a multimillion-dollar rebranding campaign.
WERGAN: It’s the biggest change that we’ve made to the Xerox identity for 40 years, and the biggest change to our overall brand identity, probably in our company history.
He says the new trademark, this red globe with a signature white X, is a symbol of the future, a symbol of connection, a symbol of innovation.
ROB FRANKEL: It looks like a baseball that got drunk.
That’s Rob Frankel, a branding expert based in Los Angeles. He says companies have been spending billions to rework old logos so that they can multitask for the Web, in video, on cell phones. For instance, AT&T sought a new emblem when it acquired Cingular. UPS has faced heavy competition from FedEx and recently went brown with it’s new insignia and KFC is trying to build customer backing by giving a facelift to “The Colonel,” but Frankel says it’s not enough that people know you.
FRANKEL: They need to know why they should care. That’s what you tell your designer. Give me a visual representation that will start or try to communicate why our brand is the only solution.
Artist Drew Dougherty has heard that before. He specializes in designing logos for outdoorsy companies like surf outfitters. He’s been through several re-branding campaigns. Sometimes he goes through hundreds of sketches.
DREW DOUGHERTY: This is not my best work, by the way.
His work has to be distinctive, especially when a company looks for a new logo. The design has to create a link between the old and the new that doesn’t alienate the customer.
DOUGHERTY: You’ve got to make the right choices that are respected by the core customer and of course desired by the masses.
And once that new image is out there, Dougherty has just one more wish for these hardworking logos — that they rise above the surf.
DOUGHERTY: You’ve got shots on the covers of magazines where a guy’s hauling butt coming down that wave and believe me, every sponsor is praying that they can see that logo.
Whether it’s on a surfboard or on a Ducati motorcycle.
I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.