Traditionally a brand identity is fixed because it encapsulates the core essence of the brand. While multi-channel campaigns may come and go, the identity should remain consistent, updated every few decades to reflect contemporary cultural trends or a change in proposition.
But increasingly we’re seeing a lot of what we’ve termed ‘chameleon branding’, where the identity regularly morphs, usually subtly but sometimes quite radically, to suit its surroundings.
The earliest brands were literally just that, a mark of quality branded on the product. The replication of the same marque was all-important. But as branding has become increasingly sophisticated logos that remain the same all the time can seem a bit staid. By being continually exposed to the same symbol, consumers may even fail to really register it any more. There is an obvious watch out here in that a brand must change without losing all sense of direction, but there are a number of advantages to a chameleon identity.
Make a statement
When MTV first hit our screens in 1981 the brand broke all the rules. It had no color guidelines and through countless iterations – from the messy, dirty to the furry and fruity – MTV rebelled against the corporate logos that dominated other television networks. In 2009 it rebranded, dropping ‘music television’ to reflect its new positioning as the home of content for Generation Y. The new logo has a cleaner line; it’s less graffiti, more graphic. It retained the same flexible identity but began using it to represent MTV’s more commercial purpose. Instead of embodying a spirit of rebellion the logo became a frame for whatever program it was presently promoting. Something for (almost) everyone
Like MTV, the London 2012 Olympics logo was designed to appeal to a younger demographic. The logo is meant to show that London is a bold, buzzing, multi-cultural city, with a forward-looking emphasis. It’s the first Olympics logo to come in a variety of colours, intended to reflect the fact that the Games is for everyone (although presumably not for shy, retiring types) and apparently it will continue to evolve in the build up to the Olympics. As well as symbolizing the energy and optimism that the Games are intended to inspire, the logo is also able to blend into a variety of settings, which allows it to work in harmony with a wide range of corporate sponsors.
Easy to use
The rebranding of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has transformed a somewhat tired looking marque into a really useful campaign tool. The anagram is legible but has a rugged confidence that suits the people that it represents. The shape’s strength and simplicity means it can be replicated with ease and ensures that the logo has impact whatever colour or material is used. Anyone wanting to support the cause can easily fashion a compelling call to action. Inspire creativity
Inspired by the architecture of the university, the new logo for the Ontario College of Art and Design (which now prefers to be referred to in a RISD-esque fashion as the OCAD U) creates a marque that can be mass produced but which inspires rather than restricts student’s creativity by providing them with a window which they can fill with their creative thoughts. The idea is that each year students are invited to contribute to the logo, over time forming a library of the way that design and aesthetics has changed. It works because it’s a strong form that’s well considered, but with a maximum of flexibility that is ideally suited to this particular kind of institution.
Segment the business
Add another dimension
The merger of two popular telecom providers in Austria, A1 and Telekom, gave them the opportunity to leave behind their very corporate logos and embrace something altogether more distinctive while simultaneously advertising the wealth of benefits that this marriage offered.
Warning: Chameleon branding is eye-catching but risky. You wouldn’t want the IAVA logos to start showing up in blood red for example. Lack of coherence across the execution could result in the brand sending mixed messages, losing some of its impact in the process.
The phone network, 3, seems to have fallen into this trap. Originally its dynamic and multicolored logo announced its arrival as the communications network of the future. However it has expanded into so many color combinations that it has lost all sense of direction, looking more like a tie-dye project gone wrong than a confident brand marque.
Chameleon branding is a great way to catch the consumer’s eye. It relies heavily on a strong marque and a clear sense of why the identity is allowed to morph, but done well it can help give your brand an edge in the modern marketplace.