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NBCUniversal Logo Might Be 'The Gap Logo' Of 2011

Posted by Abe Sauer on January 27, 2011 09:45 PM

Look, we know the economy is bad and times are tough and the future is unknown. And we know that a brand looks at itself, and down at the precious logo cradled in its arms, and wonders if it's doing everything it can, if it maybe isn't doing enough. After a while, we understand — the brand just feels like it has to do something. Anything.

But seriously, would brands all stop destroying the most recognizable elements of themselves. Please? Because it's starting to drive us nuts. Now we have to deal with what Comcast hath wrought with NBC Universal — sorry, NBCUniversal.

Here's what we've had to deal with lately.

Starbucks: We understand what you're trying to do, the new places you're trying to go. But dropping the color combination that every caffeine-addict in the world recognizes is a really questionable move. You spent decades building that recognition.

Seattle's Best: I suppose we should have anticipated Starbucks' move after Seattle's Best went from a vibrant explosion of color identifiable from 300 feet away to an emotionless circle that looks like it could double as the identity for a pod hotel in Tokyo.

Gap: Of course, Starbucks' move looks like branding genius next to the personality crisis you had last year.

Kraft: What happened to the bold red identity? Where is the love? You're so cold now.

Even with the twee flower? Kraft, you're frigid.

And now we come to NBC Universal. Is it a passive aggressive move on new owner Comcast's part to pluck the iconic peacock from the new corporate logo? Do they think people won't get that it's one word now unless they remove the visual element (the colorful NBC peacock fan) that separated the two words under GE's reign?

Or is America's biggest cable operator — well — operating under the mistaken assumption that it needs to downplay the NBC part of the NBC Universal — sorry, NBCUniversal — name? It surely understands the NBC peacock is one of the most identifiable logos in America, if not the world, right?

New NBCU head Steve Burke said in a town hall meeting today the logo for the NBC television network, along with CNBC and MSNBC, will retain the proud colors and bird for "years to come." But he also, ominously, said it looked "kind of busy."

We appreciate that it's Comcast acquiring NBC Universal, and all its TV and web properties and of course Universal Studio and the parks business. And it's a new owner's house and they can gussy up the joint as they see fit.

But Comcast — and Burke — are cable operators not known for their branding, naming (Xfinity?) or design savvy. NBCU, on the other hand, is home to some of the smartest branders on the planet, particularly on the cable networks' side. Which would you rather do the redecorating in your house?

Also, what's with running it all together into one word? Just try to pronounce how it looks. Do it, try. "NBCUniversal." You're still going to say "NBC ... Universal" even though the name begs otherwise. Bravo's Queer Eye gang would pluck and separate that monobrow of a name in an instant.

This rebranding, we're told, is meant to celebrate the rich and dynamic content, a meeting of brands — technology meets entertainment — so why would Comcast want their prized new toy to be so…. blah? Why no vibrancy? Why no color? Why shoot for being so... undistinguishable? (Imagine if they'd landed Disney!)

The only good thing about NBCUniversal's new logo — which also removes the Universal globe, and was unveiled to staffers in a welcome kit that said, "Let's make history. Again." — is that by the time you're done reading this, you will have already forgotten how terrible it is.

Update: Good to see that NBC News anchor Brian Williams fought the good fight today and questioned the logo change, according to the New York Times

Mr. Williams said to Steve Burke, the new NBCUniversal chief executive, “It’s our Coca Cola. It’s our Apple. It’s our Ford Motor Co., that instantly recognizable thing.”

Mr. Burke answered, “Today we rolled out a new corporate logo, which is actually going to be used in a very limited way for corporate things.” He added, “The consumer’s not really going to see this logo.”

He (Burke) said he liked combining the “NBC” and the “Universal” because “a hallmark of this company is going to be individual businesses working together.” He concluded, “I would assume that the peacock is a big part of NBC and CNBC and MSNBC for years to come.”

So there you have it, folks — the mono-name and rebrand are meant to symbolize the Comcast way of collaboration over "office politics." In that case, it perfectly symbolizes the "culture shock" between NBCU and Comcast. Just don't make that your new corporate identity, Mr. Burke!


Nathan United States says:

I can't do it. Every time I try to read it, I see NB Cuniversal. I get about to the V before I realize the mistake and back up.

And what's with the typeface? It's pointing in every direction at once.

January 27, 2011 11:14 PM #

Lucian Rosca United States says:

The new logo is just weak. It looks done by a first term graphic student.
But going back to the root problem: Comcast. Today, this is probably one of the worst names in the American business. Should we have expected better?
Abe noted very well that the cable operator is "not known for their branding, naming (Xfinity?) and design savvy". Unfortunately, in this case, they had the money and the power.

January 28, 2011 12:34 AM #

Skemple United States says:

Seriously. Ever tried typesetting these stupid Monobrows? The one word approach is a trite, overused gimmick, like swoosh copycats. Has Burke ever heard of brand equity?

January 28, 2011 06:41 AM #

Jeff United States says:

It looks like a bank logo.  Sheesh.

January 28, 2011 08:47 AM #

Clark United States says:

This is ridiculous! How would anyone ever let this happen? I can kind of agree that the old NBC Universal logo was a tiny bit ridiculous, but to change the whole thing is pointless.
And Kraft and Seattle's Best, what happened?!?! These new brand logos are simply dissapointing.

January 28, 2011 09:51 AM #

Dildo United States says:

Hi, this is a good topic to have discussion on bit as I have go though all the posts replies there is not much to talk about every zygors guidemost of the replies have been written what I wanted to share

February 3, 2011 09:39 AM #

Steve Olenski United States says:

Hi Abe,

Great post and judging by this line "...would brands all stop destroying the most recognizable  elements of themselves." and by my recent article in Ad Age (http://bit.ly/hIJDN9) you & I are definitely on the same page...

And here's a logo changed that occurred last Oct that flew under the radar... caught my eye because it was personal, you'll see what I mean.... http://bit.ly/aTlUWo

January 28, 2011 10:01 AM #

A Sauer United States says:

What the hell? So they took a great classic logo and make it into the in-house brand you get at the W Hotel? Good grief. Thanks for pointing that one out. I missed it.

January 28, 2011 10:58 AM #

Richard Shanks United States says:

Even a first-year graphic design student could do better than this turd. Even the color is terrible. Purple, really? Yeah, because purple is really at the top of professional business communications.

FIRE the design firm that produced this abortion. Start over with a firm like VSA Partners, Siegel Gale, UpShift or Pentagram.

January 28, 2011 11:06 AM #

Jessica United States says:

Why are all these companies trying so hard to re-invent the wheel?  There are so many ways to rev-up your brand without destroying your brand recognition.  These people are taking minimalism way too seriously.  Sometimes less isn't always more.  Sometimes less is less!  I am having Blimpie flash backs.....another terrible change.  They should have just put everything in comic sans so I could barf harder.  *sigh*

January 28, 2011 11:57 AM #

Ed Davids United States says:

Yep -- logo, and thus branding disasters, to be sure.  Agree with all the angst being expressed.  

Let me add one more little "Huh?  That's what it's supposed to be?" comment to those already stated:

Seattle's Best:  Am I the only one who, when he/she sees a graphic in the shape of a drop surrounded by red, thinks first (and thereafter) of . . . blood and not (until reminded by the text) of . . . coffee?  

Seems like both Starbucks and SBC are staging themselves to represent product lines beyond their original roots (or beans) -- which is fine -- but brand abandonment and slow suicide is not the way to do it.

January 28, 2011 02:50 PM #

PCARTER United States says:

I think the public bashing of all of these branding initiatives has become quite trite.

As designers we beg to be recognized as design thinkers and strategists, yet jump at the chance to call someone / some agency's work garbage by the look of a single mark.

Seems to be short sighted in my opinion.

January 30, 2011 04:49 PM #

Steve United States says:

You forgot to mention United Airlines and the horrible, horrible decision to ditch their iconic "U" for a generic clip-art globe

January 31, 2011 02:57 AM #

Comments are closed

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