Thursday, April 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Updated UGA Brand Identity

Earlier this week, UGA unveiled an updated brand identity. The official announcement is here, complete with some video, press release verbiage, and PDFs of the updated imagery and wordmarks. The laser-focused UniWatch blog even felt compelled to comment on it here.

Judging from twitter and Dawg blog reactions, the general consensus seems to be "Why?" I can understand that. People are resistant to change. And there's probably no group more steeped in appreciation for "tradition" and "status quo" than southerners, particularly southern football fans. Plus, the fact that Nike was involved left many rending their garments (no pun intended) and fearing that we were going to Oregon ourselves up and look like an Arena Football team on acid (like those horrific Pro Combat unis we trotted out vs. Boise State a couple of years ago). Thankfully, the changes were fairly minor, all things considered.

As for the "why," left me offer a few thoughts. I'm a proud UGA grad, fan, and season ticket holder. I've also worked in branding, marketing, and advertising for over two decades, both from a strategic and creative viewpoint. So I think I have a pretty good understanding of all aspects of this situation.

Most folks don't consciously realize it, but there is a tremendous value in a brand. When you mention a product category -- cars, electronics, soft drinks, restaurants, beer, name it -- you instantly think of a brand. And the brands that rise to the top of your consciousness and preference are typically the ones that do the best job of branding. An important part of branding is consistency. Every time you walk into a Home Depot, or see an ad for Coke, or pick up an Apple product, you get a brand experience, complete with consistent logos, colors, typefaces and "brand identities." This stuff can be subtle, but it's critical to reinforcing what the brand stands for and how it is represented. A good brand looks the same no matter where you see it: on the web, on a billboard, on an ad, on a uniform, or on a golf shirt.

90% of what UGA did this week was bring some consistency to how "our" brand is represented. Think about our sports teams and their unis. At a glance, you might think the football, gymnastics, baseball, hoops, track, and other sporting teams had consistent unis. There was red. And black. And silver. And grey. And white. But were they all the exact same versions of those colors? Not always. And really, there were many different fonts going on, for both letters and numbers. The words "Georgia" and "Bulldogs" were also shown different ways. Now there's one primary way to do it, and I think it looks quite nice:

That also doesn't take into account how UGA was represented on official documents and websites, which had their own inconsistencies. And we won't even get into the world of officially licensed products (Just look around your tailgate: how many different logos, fonts, and versions of the color red are on your shirts, coozies, flags, chairs, and other merchandise?).

Why would we NOT want all these things to be consistent and reinforce the UGA brand identity? Why wouldn't we want to put our best foot forward and make our public-facing brand the very best it can be? College athletics and team branding is a multi-billion dollar business, and wouldn't we rather be an Apple instead of a BlackBerry?

So looking over the new brand standards, I applaud what was done. Going forward, the typefaces for virtually everything will be standardized. The PMS colors will be standardized. When you see one Georgia team, you will get the feeling that they are an extension of a larger whole, and that's a good thing.

Here's the important thing: The "G" isn't going anywhere. It's not changing. One of the most recognizable logos in college sports is staying the exact same. Right there in all the brand materials it is called our PRIMARY athletic mark:

Probably the most controversial aspect of the branding initiative was the creation of a new "bulldog" logo, which will replace the old version as the SECONDARY athletic mark:

New Bulldog

Old Bulldog

We all grew up with the "old" version. It is beloved. It currently adorns many items in all of our homes. I love it.

However, from a marketing standpoint, I can understand the need and desire to create something "new." I haven't seen any of the creative briefs or brand rationales. However, I can imagine that there's some dialogue in them that sounds something like this:

  • The old bulldog is asymmetrical. Facing left. We should probably have something that is centered, balanced, facing forward, and looks the same from every angle.
  • The old bulldog logo is hand drawn, and contains many, many small lines and details. This makes is difficult to reproduce accurately across different media and applications and sizes, particularly on apparel that has to be stitched (depending on the vendor and their equipment). We need something that can be consistently executed across all materials and media.
  • The different weighting of lines, shadows, and detail also makes the old logo appear differently at different distances. By simplifying and moving to more clean and bold lines, the new logo will stand out and present a consistent representation  up close and at a distance.
  • Younger fans have grown up in an era of apps and symmetrically presented icons for buttons, labels, and badges.  This will appeal to them and more easily integrate into the digital world.
  • It would be nice if the new bulldog more closely resembles the world's best live mascot, too. 
  • We will still keep the old bulldog as an "Additional Athletic Mark" and we can develop merchandise around it as a line of "classic" products.
  • We can sell new logo'd shit.

Well, I'm sure that last point wasn't put in a brief for public consumption, but we all know that's part of it, right? And I've got no problem with it. This is a business, after all.

And you know what? I don't dislike the new logo. In fact, after sitting with it for a few days, I actually kind of like it. That doesn't diminish my affection for the old one. I'll still proudly wear my apparel with the "classic" logo. Having something new doesn't threaten having something older, too (unless you're talking about marriage). I like strips and ribeyes. I drink Crown and Makers. I played around and made a quick iPhone 4S wallpaper with the new elements, and it's not that bad:

The one aspect that still rubs me the wrong way is the treatment of our "silver britches." Over the years, they've gone from silver to "dull grey." McGarity even addressed that here:

"As new technology comes up, as new fabric becomes available, you'll see that morph into maybe more (like) our silver britches," McGarity said. "It all has to do with what kind of fabric and color these people do. You know, kind of like the (Dallas) Cowboys wear? That's the kind of silver you'd like to get, which is kind of like what we used to have, which had kind of a shine to them. It just depends on how fast they can get that material. ...
"That'd be the goal, to get it back to the silver britches. That's the overall goal. And Nike's one of the few that can do that, because they've got some of it in the NFL now."

Read more here:

I understand that "metallics" is one of the hardest things to represent consistently, given that it needs to appear on various types of cloth, of paper, of plastic, and digitally. But invoking the Cowboys doesn't fill me with confidence:

Look at the pants and the helmet above. Would any rational person call those THE SAME? Fortunately, our scheme doesn't require the same metallic color represented in two different materials, but how fucking hard can it be to create silver britches?

So at the end of the day, I really like and endorse what we've done. We're still Red and Black. We're still committed to the G. We still have the Arches. We're still the Dawgs. We still have the G as our primary logo. We didn't go "Full Oregon." We tweaked. We refined. We streamlined. We strengthened our brand. And in the long run, I think that's a good thing.

Go Dawgs. All of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment