The image below is the new Walmart logo, in use for the better part of 2009. It's a shift from the previous version in a few dramatic ways. The old one was darker blue, the letters were in all caps (shouting) and there was a star icon separating the Wal from the Mart, like the asterisk does here: Wal*Mart. So what right?
The new logo is softer, lighter, fuzzier and friendlier. Some would say a needed change and a sign of the times. The addition of the tagline, "Save money. Live better" certainly is a sign of the times, just like the PC commercials running, in an attempt (as yet unsuccessful) to steal market share from Apple by showing how a PC can be cool AND cost under $1,000. Bill Marsh wrote a bit about this in his Ideas & Trends column earlier this summer in the New York Times.
Another example he gave is the change in the Kraft Foods logo. I grew up with the Kraft logo of old, dark blue all cap letters, in that thick red outline box with beveled edges around it. It graced the boxes of KD I ate in first year university when food budgets were tight. What a change Kraft has gone to in their new logo, below. Light, airy, open, colorful, friendly. Even the tagline is an opportunity to make the most of the day - "make today delicious".
These astute marketers and the creatives behind the changes are in touch with the times, and in touch with what I believe to be a lasting change in our culture today. One more humanistic, more open, more accessible. We've all heard the adage, "customers are more in control than ever before" and it is true. What these changes in corporate identity tell me is these companies are realizing that control isn't just about media usage and having the ability to Tivo out commercials, or select news feeds to be sent directly to in boxes.
Perhaps this added customer control is also about wanting to not accept all the negative, and to just find a few little ways to feel better. No emblems of distant, cold, standoff-ish behemoths. Give me non-threatening, reassuring, even playful logos. Faces of friends. Those of you on the more traditional side of the spectrum here, please don't misread this. I am not saying we are becoming a bunch of soft, unaccountable, come-as-you-like-do-as-you-pleasers.
I am saying that life can be a whole lot more fun, and I believe ultimately more productive and sustainable long-term if you come at it in a more open, inclusive, inviting way. That's what I read in these logos and the thinking behind the change.