The University of California recently unveiled a new brand system, which was greeted with a very vocal disapproval from students, alumni, faculty, designers as well as unassociated onlookers. While there were some misunderstandings along the way that contributed to its dislike, (i.e. the logo working alongside the seal, not replacing it—like most other large universities; the icon being displayed with the text as the whole logo), the new logo and brand was still totally inappropriate in the eyes of the student body, alumni and faculty.
The International Business Times reported:
”To a generation all too familiar with circular, fading loading symbols, this is an attempt to be revolutionary. But it comes off as insensitive,”
21-year-old UC Irvine senior, Reaz Rahman told the Los Angeles Times.
"To me, it didn’t symbolize an institution of higher learning. It seemed like a marketing scheme to pull in money rather than represent the university."
There are numerous articles debating the new brand’s merits and faults, but, regardless, there are two lessons to be learned; one about being sensitive and the other about catering to customers and/or employees.
Be sensitive to the fact that your brand is much more than your visual identity.
Your brand encompasses your company’s entire personality. Don’t make the mistake of concentrating on your visual identity and forgetting about the rest—how you treat complaints, your verbiage, your attitude. Strike a balance between the emphasis you place in boosting employee/customer pride through developing a new identity and the efforts you expend ensuring your services and workplace are something to be proud of.
There are many ways that U of C didn’t do this (teachers going on strike and students being pepper sprayed during a peaceful protest all in the past year), and deciding to focus on a new visual image when what they really needed to do was to focus on their university’s culture. Are you having consistent issues that are leaving your people feeling unattended to? Maybe you need to focus on how your company operates before getting a facelift. If done at the wrong time, a visual rebrand will look like a distraction tactic, and it will tell your people that you care more about your outward appearance than what they need.
Be sensitive to whether or not your visual identity reflects what your customers and employees expect and want from you.
Your visual brand needs to inform your customers and employees who you are to them and not mimic the way they look. People want their grocers to look natural, not medicinal, they want their movie store to be exciting, not stiff, and they want their place of education to look established and planned, not trendy. Ask your customers what they like or don’t like about you, survey to see who they think you are and who they would like you to be. Remember, they don’t necessarily want you to look exactly like them.
Do not forget that your purpose as a company, including your branding, is to serve your customers and employees. They will have some expectations for how you look and how you act, and if you fail to meet them you will be met with dissatisfied customers. Find out what they are looking for (within reason) and deliver to the best of your ability.
Speaking of being sensitive:
Not in any way shape or form do I want to discredit the organization or firm that produced the University of California brand. I would simply like to use this as a learning opportunity.
- The CB Team
Contact Cassel Bear