Some brand logos are so recognizable that they don’t need the name to accompany the mark, or at least that's what some of the biggest brands in the world are hoping. Take Nike’s swoosh, Adidas’ three stripes and Apple’s... apple. Other brands think they have that caché in their logos and are removing the name – some perhaps as a temporary ploy for attention and others could be testing the waters for future use.
And the trend continues as this week Doritos challenged its customers by removing the brand name from its logo and replacing it with ‘Logo Goes Here’ inside its triangle-shaped marque. The tortilla chip brand claims that its ‘Another Level’ campaign, which removed the ‘For the Bold’ tagline and logos from social and digital ads, is meant to appeal to Gen Z, a generation which it claims doesn’t like ‘overt’ advertising.
Doritos isn’t the first brand to try this tactic, of course. Mastercard recently took its wordmark off of its logo in a move to achieve “modern simplicity” and Starbucks, while it hasn’t officially removed its wordmark, noted on its brand expression website that the brand prefers to use the logo by itself without its wordmark, which allows it to be presented with “greater prominence”.
“It’s not always a single reason [why brands remove wordmarks,]” said Superunion chief strategy officer, John Shaw. “Apple could do it because its logo is an apple anyway. Nike could do it as a pioneering expression of brand confidence. Mastercard is doing it partly because the brand is no longer about cards. Doritos is doing it partly as a piece of subversive anti-marketing. Every case is a little different, just like every brand is a little different.”
Advantages of removing wordmarks
There are some advantages with simplifying a logo by removing names and slogans. Shaw noted “extreme, telegraphic simplicity is very useful in the small and rapidly moving spaces of a device-dependent world. So, if words get in the way, remove them.”
Team Epiphany founder and managing partner, Coltrane Curtis, said the advantages are to create; “brand mystique, interest and intrigue”. But he cautioned: “When your brand has earned the opportunity, and I stress earned... They can play with their branding and iconography which can lead to off-brand colorways and in some instances, they can go brandless. It’s the reason why my Range Rover is all black (mobbed-out) and all of the tags have been removed; everyone still identifies it as a Range because the shape is iconic. Only icons can play in this space.”
Shaw stated that consumers are getting more comfortable communicating without words, with emojis, gifs and abbreviations, and he noted that brands looking to grow in countries that don’t use a western alphabet could benefit by removing wordmarks.
Simon Dixon, co-founder at DixonBaxi, thinks that the harder it gets to connect to younger audiences, the bolder brands will need to become with moves like wordmark removal. “It is noticeable that it requires bold creative leadership from both the client and agency to take those risks. Juventus had a similar approach recently, where they challenged the convention of traditional sports branding to create a more global perspective.”
There is agreement that for a name removal to succeed, the brand needs to be big enough and have enough heritage, and that the brand needs a plan for success.
“The danger is building a campaign without something driving it longer-term that solves the underlying problem,” said Dixon. “Is it a dislike of branding alone or a product/relevance issue? If not, a short-term spike can be followed by a vacuum as the underlying product relevance and the way it fits into people lifestyles fades.”
Shaw said that “names communicate, so the dropped name makes more sense if the brand is very well understood already. And there’s always the risk of ending up nameless. Prince can drop his name and become a symbol. But not all brands are Prince.”
Curtis concluded that brands that make the wordless move aren’t winning new consumers, they are retaining and reinforcing relationships with existing brand fans. “And since we live in a world of head-swiveling promiscuous consumerism, double-downing on ensuring loyalty from your base isn’t a bad idea at all. That’s ‘if’ your brand is strong enough for this strategy to be a viable option.”
Read more about Dorito's name removal from its branding here.