While on vacation last week, my brother in law and I were out running around Charleston, South Carolina when we drove past a Sherwin Williams paint store. As we passed the large sign in front of the store, he looked at the logo, gasped, and said to me “could there possibly be a more offensive corporate logo than one that depicts dumping an enormous bucket of paint over the entire planet Earth?” I agreed, chuckled, and drove on to our next destination, but his comment stuck with me as it highlights what can happen to a brand over time.
Based on a few searches for information about the history of this brand and its logo, I learned that the logo dates back to approximately 1905. It is easy to imagine that in the midst of the industrial revolution, covering the earth with paint was perhaps viewed as something positive. There was little concern for the environment, this was a new product, and the American middle class was in its infancy. But times change…
Today, this logo takes on a completely different meaning to the general public. It has the visual power to offend members of the general public – people like my brother in law, who by the way is an engineer that has nothing to do with marketing, logos, or branding. This logo, which 100 years earlier would likely have appealed to my brother in law, now angers him – regardless of the behavior of the company or the quality of their products. He won’t even consider buying their paint because of the symbolism attached to this brandmark. What’s worse, a quick google search on the logo will turn up many others who have expressed disdain for it. Yet it remains.
I am sure there is a reason why, and I won’t pretend to say I know what it is. What I will say is this. The Sherwin Williams logo provides an example of how a brandmark can unknowingly offend because it has not evolved with the times. It underscores the importance of making sure that your brand is in sync with those you hope to serve.
As the great Peter Brady once sang “when it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange who you are and what you’re going to be.”