“How long has the iTunes icon been red?”

This was a question posed by someone in our office recently, sparking energetic debate about whether the iTunes icon was indeed red, blue, or some other colour altogether. Interestingly, the discussion was focussed around what colour the icon actually was, but a far more interesting question for us as a research community is around the topic of change when it comes to brand representation.

Whilst renovation in logo or branding design certainly can keep a brand fresh, often these changes are explored with consumers to determine likeability, meaning and preference. Going beyond these measures, brands like Apple will, undoubtedly, have researched the more implicit and behavioural implications of iconography change – how readily consumers recognise, find and are therefore able to use a program or app are useful measures of how the true effects of these changes (in addition to how it impacts their perceptions or engagement with the brand of course). Presumably, if consumers are looking for the wrong coloured logo or icon when searching, it will take them longer and generate potentially more frustration in the usage process.

Should this be cause for concern?

Obviously, if the majority of the market uses colour heuristics in their app or program searches, it is a cause for concern IF these effects outweigh any implicit benefits of the icon’s colour change. In other words, in addition to knowing the likeability, preference, meaning and behavioural impacts of logo or icon change, brands also need to consider the relative importance of different heuristics across their base of loyal, intermittent and target acquisitions.

More importantly, perhaps, is the timing around communication of a branding change. Often brands will spend huge amounts upon brand, logo or packaging launch to ensure consumers are aware of the branding changes, but then assume that these changes become quickly assimilated in consumer memory and this memory assimilation is ‘sticky’ over time. Perhaps it is in many cases, but in the case of less frequent users or those not as familiar with the brand, this may not be the case, suggesting that ‘refresher’ campaigns may be essential to consider earlier in the planning piece rather than leaving these too late and assuming the new heuristics are adopted.

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