In 2009 Ikea was the target of customer outcry, not because it had increased its prices or designed a new range of furniture but because it had changed its logo.

The company branding was reknowned for its yellow and blue swedish colours and its typeface, a solid but elegant logotype, nicely balanced and pleasing to the eye. The original logo was based on the font Futura, a customised version, called, not surprisingly, ‘Ikea sans’ designed by Robin Nichols.

The powers that be then decided to make changes and “IKEA” appeared in a typeface called ‘Verdana’. Nice enough but not quite what Ikea’s customers were used to. The Futura customisation was solid and balanced while the Verdana version looked cheap and unmatched. It was supposed to be a more functional font to use.

Their customers didn’t agree and made their feelings very clear! 

Verdana became a trending topic on twitter and suffered a global slatting.  (Feel the power of social media)

Vitaly Friedman, editor in chief of the online Smashing Magazine said, “The former typeface definitely better reflected Ikea’s design philosophy, giving it a very special, unique flavor that actually fit the company’s style,” (read the article)

Verdana had been designed for use on the screen and was truly a functional typeface, easily legible but overused and more often for body text rather than decorative logotypes. When enlarged in the catalogue, Ikea’s customers described it as ugly and poorly spaced and seeing it on a billboard catastrophic! So the ‘eye of the beholder’ is purely personal opinion but so many ‘personal opinions’ count!

Ikea are still well established admired for good design, so the branding episode did not do any long term damage, however the logo appears on all sites in the well loved Futura based Ikea Sans, in blue and yellow still, for all to see.

A lesson was learned and taken on board by many companies for the future, whether it was the overwhelming power that disgruntled customers using social media could weld or how, when implementing changes, even for the best logical reasons, market research and public opinion was not to be ignored.

Coca Cola released a Holiday edition white can, it got confused with Diet Coke by loyal customers and was replaced with in a month!

Gap refreshed its image in 2010 but within days the outcry of ‘amateurish’  forced them to revert. Instead of taking the opportunity to engage the online community that made the noise and created a great marketing opportunity, they asked for free design help and then had to live with the embarrassing mistake.

Branding has a huge impact on customers, far more than we really appreciate. We take much of it for granted in our daily lives. A strong brand can be used in innovating ways and will still be recognised.

Google is a fantastic example, recently appearing as Startrek characters and for those of us who clicked extensively created interactive scenes – brilliant and for one day only!

Use your brand – have fun with it if appropriate and don’t be afraid to tweak, with larger changes ask your customers opinions, find out if your logo says what you want it to …and what it actually does!

Angie Phillips of A.N.G Creative Design, based in Essex, UK, helping you communicate your message to your clients and generating more leads and sales.