I’ve decided to re-brand the branding company. Mardesco is getting a new look, a new logo, a new website, a new presentation. This is the first post in a series about the rebranding process.
I guess in order to understand why I’d decide to rebrand the company, you have to know what the old brand represented.
Selecting the brand name
I initially created the Mardesco brand in the summer of 2011 while I was taking a course on Brand Design and Development for my MBA. The brand’s name is a contraction of the words “Marketing Design Company.” The name fit the important criteria: short, not too difficult to pronounce, not easily mistaken for a different word.
The name “Mardesco” was one of more than six dozen different brand names I brainstormed for the project. I then asked people to vote on their favorites, and analyzed the results. Unfortunately, when I went to register a website domain name, I found that all the most popular name ideas had already been taken. But I was lucky, because the domain squatting industry had not yet snagged Mardesco.com.
So I did.
Designing the original logo
I began designing the original Mardesco logo in the first days of November, 2011. At the time I was doing business from my office in Lacey as Widgeon Web Design, so continued development of the future brand was a long-term project; there was no hurry.
First I sketched six different concepts. Then I roughed out four of those in the computer. Of those, I selected my favorite. I spent far longer than a non-graphic designer could ever imagine on the process of adjusting, tweaking, and warping the letterforms to get the vector illustration of my company name to live up to the concept of my initial sketch. The final result was more bespoke than typeface. Finally, I completed the new logo in early April of 2012.
The original Mardesco logo was meant to evoke the concept of strong brands. It used a cursive script, which I thought was reminiscent of national brands like Coca-Cola, Walgreens, and many big-league sports teams.
I used red lettering for the script, because I wanted the logo to be eye-catching.
Behind the cursive company name was a brightly colored oval with a couple layers of orange-yellow-brown range gradient fill. The oval was decorated with some very faint textures: a starburst and a bit of “shine.” This was meant to be colorful, cheerful, and hopefully a little bit flashy-techie too.
Well, I was quite proud of my new logo. I felt it showed off my technical sophistication and vector design chops. I thought it could eventually be iconic.
The logo went live when Mardesco officially started doing business in Oregon under its new brand name. This was in August of 2012: shortly after I finished business school.
It took me several months to admit to myself that there was a problem with my brilliant new logo.
The problem was that people couldn’t read it.
I had the logo printed on my business cards, and on a reusable magnetic name tag that I wore to Chamber of Commerce meetings. But when I handed people my business cards, or when I shook their hands and they tried to read my name tag, they often seemed to struggle with the company name. It’s not a real word, so it did not have any instant associations. (Some people thought it must be my last name, or my employer’s last name.) Without associations, the word is not instantly recognizable. That forced readers to sound it out phonetically, letter by letter. This was made more difficult because of the way I had proportioned the logo design. The letters in the middle of the word were actually quite small relative to the size of the logo itself as a whole. For a person with poor eyesight, the letters of the company name were difficult to read when the logo was printed small enough to fit on my name tag.
So that was a problem early on; but I wasn’t ready to ditch a brand-new brand. I’d spent all this time developing the logo, and I’d also spent a bunch of money printing my logo on business cards and stationery and postcard mailers.
As I met more local business people, I realized there were other problems with my brand. One of these problems was something I had consciously chosen to ignore at the outset: and that was the use of the color red for the lettering in my logo. Red is better for consumer brands. Red provokes a visceral, primal reaction. It generates excitement. Red is an excellent color for branding food products, because it can stimulate primal hunger. However, red is also a color of fear. Poison berries are red. Stop signs are red. Red may be seen as a warning: a red flag, as it were. It’s fine for Xerox, because they’ve been a household name for half a century or more. But for a new, unknown local business trying to win contracts in a competitive industry, red was probably not the best choice.
As a business-to-business enterprise, I’d have been better off with a blue logo: blue for business, blue for technology, blue for trust. Evoking consumer brands was not the best strategy, because Mardesco is not a consumer brand. I would be better off if my brand evoked the brands of my best customers; and I found that many of my best customers had very reserved logos: their company name written in a standard font, with solid colors and little or no decoration.
And finally, the flowing, curvy script of my company’s font face was sometimes perceived as somewhat feminine.
This never would have occurred to me. As far as I was concerned, my letterforms looked like the script for a sports team, and therefore the logo should have associations of strength, winning, and virility. But as time passed, a couple different people made casual remarks that made me realize that cursive letters are generally seen as somewhat feminine. Now, I love women, but I’m a dude. And “feminine” is associated with “nurturing,” whereas I want my brand to be associated with “business strategy,” which can be more sort of ruthless when necessary. So I don’t really want to be thought of as “feminine.”
I can’t set about changing the way the world perceives cursive lettering in general. I’m better off selecting a different letterform for my logo.
Visibility at Small Size
But the final straw came as I was designing advertisement layouts for a marketing campaign.
It all began because I wanted to run an advertising campaign: a postcard mailer and some newspaper ads. I went through revision after revision, got a bunch of different stock photos, kept changing the text copy; I’m my own worst nightmare client with the infinite revisions. I began the process in late March. I kept changing my mind about how precisely targeted the mailing should be, and the message, and the stock photos.
Eventually I decided I was going to run some newspaper ads at about the same time my postcard mailers went out. But I couldn’t afford really large ads, and I began to wonder if my logo would be legible when printed small.
I printed out the advertisements, in black and white, at actual size, and this deepened my doubts that people would be able to read the company name at that small size. I could read it, of course, but I knew what it said. No, this simply would not do.
The decision was made. Mardesco needs a new logo: something bold that reflects the company’s technology aspirations, while retaining a local-business customer friendliness.
And with the new logo design comes a complete rebranding opportunity. Something bold…
Tune in next time, when we continue the riveting saga of Mardesco’s rebranding process, right here on mardesco.com.