This month, British Gas, Virgin media and BT’s cable tv service BT Vision have all unveiled new logos. While each one is undoubtedly full of good intentions, they all in their way illustrate the problems of logos representing not so much what the company is but what it wants to be.
It’s the first time in 17 years that British Gas has tampered with its logo. Not only is it trying to show that it now provides a lot more than just gas, it clearly hints at the company’s environmental ambitions.
While the company really has made environmental responsibility a top priority by investing in green energy and developing plans to reduce the impact of its activities on the planet, the fact is that the bulk of its business still comes from the messy business of burning carbon fuels.
A cynic might call it greenwash.
BT Vision meanwhile expresses its technological ambitions in a design that deploys the V shaped play button in a variety of changing colours. While BT’s technology is undoubtedly excellent, it is off the pace when it comes to comparisons with many of its rivals. That feeling that BT is playing catch up is compounded by a quick look at the BT website. Its incoherent brand architecture is just plain confusing. You can’t help feeling that the problem at BT is that there is no clear vision.
A cynic might call it techwash.
Next up, Virgin Media, one of BT’s main rivals, is hoping that a new logo incorporating the Union flag will help it tap in to the patriotic fervour created by next year’s Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee -even though Virgin isn’t even an Olympic sponsor. One of the great appeals of the Virgin brand in whatever sector it operates, is that it is a challenger offering a contemporary alternative to the fuddy duddy establishment. While its founder is British, that has never been the point of Virgin which is decidedly mid-Atlantic in its appeal.
The new logo, which is certainly only the beginning of a tsunami of corporate flag waving as the Olympics approach, consists of little more than the old logo with a Union flag stuck on.
A cynic might call it flagwash.
So what are companies supposed to do? Have no banner, no rallying flag, no clear signal of where they are heading, simply because some will criticise them for not being there yet?
Of course not. The trick is to ensure that the ambition as expressed by the logo is ahead of the reality, -but not so far ahead as to be implausible. Which of these logos do you think obeys that rule? Which don’t. Make up your own mind.