Good thing they announced the “change,” otherwise we would’ve missed it. Of course, a new logo won’t turn around the channel’s image without improved programming. That said, a change in visual identity could
have served as a powerful signal for change in the network–an important clue. No other initiative offers more promise in enabling business transformation than effective branding. The key word however, is “effective.” By accurately defining the new company position, expressing it consistently through all marketing materials and forming tight alignment across all touchpoints, it will:
- Make business strategy visible.
– Create universal understanding of the organization’s direction.
– Make the new direction “real” to employees and viewers.
– Accelerate the achievement of organizational goals.
However, MTV management apparently believed there was no need for an overhaul –only microscopic tweaks. Stealth change, if you will. Is that the best plan? Tweaking, rather than changing, the logo suggests that no major change has occurred.
Which logo is best?
The viewer’s reaction to the new logo? A big yawn. Many prefer the old logo. That’s not good. If you’re adopting a new logo, it should generate some interest and enthusiasm on its own. However, it’s virtually impossible to notice any difference in MTV’s new logo. If the goal is to signal an overhauling of the network, management wasted the opportunity. This is not a bold move by the organization.
Management is trying to take the opportunity to talk in big terms about branding and having a renewed mission but it falls short of effectively representing such talk and encouraging viewer loyalty. In fact, it represents the opposite. And as such does not support the claim. And that hurts loyalty.
MTV general manager Stephen Friedman says he wants to represent its successful new programming, rather than the music-centric identity of the past.
“Music is still at the center of so much of what we do, but we’ve really expanded what that means,” he said. “We needed the logo to be flexible enough to have the artists within it but also the stars of our shows. It’s an updating that speaks to this audience in a much simpler, bolder way.”
Mr. Friedman said MTV has also had a problem with viewers not recognizing that certain shows they loved aired on MTV. “The way the [new] logo frames it makes it a simple reference point,” he said.
“We’ve been so lucky at MTV because the logo became so iconic very quickly that we were reluctant to mess with it at all,” he said. “But these past few years our entire brand DNA has been built on this evolution, so it just felt like it was the right time.”
Tina Exharos, MTV’s exec VP-marketing, said the logo redesign has been bandied about for the last 10 years among the network’s internal design staff.
To me, “bandied about” suggests a lack of strategy.
Logo design should be guided by strategy.
Consider several key descriptive phrases from the above statements:
1. “Music is still at the center of so much of what we do, but we’ve really expanded what that means,”
They’ve expanded what “music” means? Or they’ve expanded their programming beyond music videos to include “reality” shows? In other words they’ve abandoned the unique position for a similar position to the other TV networks. I understand the unique position was no longer as relevant and so something needed to be done. But is aligning with the competition the best they can do? This signals that MTV creativity is gone.
2. “It’s an updating that speaks to this audience in a much simpler, bolder way.”
Really? Simpler? Bolder? It looks the same to me.
3. “We needed the logo to be flexible enough to have the artists within it but also the stars of our shows.”
I understand the idea of “incorporating” the stars in the logo, but is that concept developed well enough in the new logo?
4. “The way the [new] logo frames it makes it a simple reference point,”
Referring to the treatment that allows an actor’s picture to appear within the “M,” it could be argued that while the actor’s picture and the letters “TV” are immediately recognizable, it is only later that the shape of the “M” is recognized, thereby confusing the communication a bit.
Opportunity for positive impact.
It seems obvious that the new programming successes present MTV with an opportunity to create a symbol of their renewed connection with an audience. It does suggest that an evolution of their visual identity would be beneficial in supporting their new programming. But what is the value of an imperceptible tweaking of their logo?
Is it possible for change in a logo design to represent an evolution? Yes. And while evolution in an organization can of course happen without a logo change, such a change can signal evolution in the organization and that can support and enhance any change being realized in the programming. And if a logo is to represent or signal that change, as it very well could, it requires actual change not imperceptible tweaks.
The opportunity for MTV is that this is the moment for a message about the programming that positions the network as new and different. Not only different from its past but different from other networks. Creating or discovering a differentiating idea in a competitive marketplace is very hard to do whether on TV or on the store shelf. The original MTV succeeded at this.
With this announcement, MTV’s management has chosen not to support visually a new message. They have chosen not to create and execute a coördinated game plan that evolves their brand as it could’ve and should’ve. And they will go forward with less differentiation than they had before. This is characteristic of management with a naïve and unsophisticated understanding of the power of branding and a weak creative department.
Some may say logo design is an insignificant concern. But little things that we do are more important than big things we may say. Visual clues are critical. For example, New York City’s image makeover during the nineties succeeded, largely because then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a successful effort to remove graffiti and fix broken windows in blighted areas of the city signaling real change to all viewers. And this did influence opinions making people willing to give the city another chance to impress them.
True, improved programming is the most important element in rebranding a TV network, but it is equally true that MTV also missed a very important opportunity to support and enhance the idea that the network is once again relevant. What do you think?