University of Dayton proudly unveiled its unfortunate new athletic logo last week, which has been largely skewered by their alumni. Noble intentions, but not exactly the desired outcome. The university is primarily known as “U.D.” and the old and new athletic logos are:
The logo change was intended to be an investment in the athletic program’s future, with ” a stronger, more iconic representation of our program and our sports teams – one that will set the direction for the next generation of Dayton Flyers. This is more than just a logo; it’s an affirmation of our commitment to meet the challenges of today’s intercollegiate athletics environment.” Sure, these changes are always controversial, but the omission of the classic “U,” as well as the inadvertent misread as “V.D.” is almost unthinkable. And if that isn’t enough, there are also criticisms of getting insufficient market feedback, using an out-of-state branding firm, and alleged nepotism…. aka a nightmare.
In fairness, the logo was announced concurrent with the new basketball uniforms, which are fabulous.
Bombarded by negative response, as of today, the university’s social media response is: “The passion of the Flyer Faithful is truly overwhelming. We have heard and read all of your comments and emails about the new athletics logo. Today, athletics is continuing to answer phone calls and emails, and hopes to respond as quickly as possible. “
Such over-aggressive, ill-conceived re-branding efforts can happen even to ‘the best of them,’ like Gap, Pepsi, Tropicana, and JC Penney. But re-branding gaffes are almost always avoidable, if you follow these basic steps:
1. Clarify the re-branding objectives and clearly describe them to your creative team and audience. This spells out the goals, boundaries, and evaluation criteria for both your agency and your constituents. For example ‘evolve the current U.D. athletic logo to be more contemporary. dynamic, and national-caliber’ provides direction.
2. Understand and leverage the brand’s equities. In this case, U.D., red/white/blue, and Flyers are among the brand’s historical equities. These do not have to stay constant, but they need to be understood, adapted, and integrated appropriately, to avoid discarding ‘what’s working.’
3. Get external feedback from your audience(s) before, during, and after the re-branding process. The upfront work helps you understand the brand’s perception and equities (as noted above) as well as potentially build project support. The ‘during’ work includes getting external feedback on the design options and identify any potential issues (in this case…V.D.!), and after, again soliciting audience feedback to the final design.
4. Broadly communicate why the redesign was done and what benefits it provides. The bigger the change, the more upfront communication is necessary – – as ‘change’ is always controversial. But an effective redesign should be relatively self-explanatory. (In this case, new logo advocates are still explaining how the new design incorporates the “U,” to no avail).
5. Listen, yet filter feedback. Listen objectively to the reaction from your audience(s). You do have to filter out a certain level of resistance that can be expected with any change. However, particularly the project owners have to be open to criticism and the possibility of a necessary revision. Positive market response is critical, and there may be some great refinement opportunities from criticism. (In this case “where’s the U?” and the “V” issue are extremely valid).
Candidly – they have a dog. They would be wise to acknowledge, and applaud, the passionate dissension and make the necessary changes. Then ask for feedback on options and present a new athletic logo – specifically in response to their loyal alumni, students, and fans.