Saturday, April 05, 2014

The evocative power of an enduring logo

I was driving down highway 41 the other day, a beautiful early spring day in Wisconsin, when I saw a truck bearing the Muller Pinehurst Dairy logo,.

And instantly, upon spying the cursive lettering and smiling sun, I was transported back to my childhood, when I saw this very same label, unchanged from what I see today. Seeing this image really threw me back. I could envision the gymnasium / lunch room at Rock Cut Elementary School and, even weirder, my shorter perspective seeing the world as bigger and more mysterious, and, weirder yet, my smaller hands grasping my half pint of Muller Pinehurst chocolate milk. Nowadays, they differentiate between whole milk and 2 percent and skim, even with the half pints, but back then it was white or chocolate or orange. I never had the white. And I only drank the orange every once in a while. It wasn't orange juice. Not even close. But, like the milk, it had the smiling sun.

Muller Pinehurst has spent zero dollars in my lifetime on a new logo. It is comforting to see a brand like that endure. I think the reason why it hasn't changed is because it is a regional / local brand, based in the Rockford area. I've been to the actual dairy once, located in the south side of Rockford, to pick up dry ice for a Halloween party.

I have this theory that local brand logos are reluctant to change because there is a stability in the customer base, and with this stability, there is a reluctance to rock the boat and change things around. A couple brand logos, all local, haven't changed in my lifetime. Centrella has the same cursive writing as Muller Pinehurst. They are based out of Franklin Park, IL.

The other one Mrs. Fishers Chips, also based out of Rockford, has the creepiest logo of the bunch, but hasn't changed. The dancing potato looks so sinister and has worn this same menacing look my entire life. Even the dress of the children looks anachronistic, reminding me of the bygone Dick and Jane primers. And just what does "Vita Seald" mean? Why is "seald" spelled like that? Must be some patent thing. All I know is that the chips are awesome and one of the most famous  products produced by a Rockford company. I've heard of people moving away from the area who have friends buy the chips and ship them.

The reason, I think, that national brand names don't keep the same logos is because they probably have huge marketing departments that need to justify their salaries and don't benefit from as stable a customer base as local brands. The only national brand I can think of that hasn't changed their logo is Krispy Kreme donuts, which I didn't find out about until after the millenium when, for a while, they were all the rage and sold out within minutes of being stocked on store shelves. According to the company web site, they patented their "bow tie" logo in 1955, but have been using it longer.

The Gothic font on the White Castle logo has remained unchanged in the restaurant's history. I don't know how long the current logo has been used, but I know, from looking at old photos, that the font is the same.
Here is a photo from 1929, the first White Castle restaurant to open in Chicago.

Logos are designed to be evocative, to subconsciously imprint the brand into one's consciousness and spur retail purchases. It is too bad that more brands don't realize the value of endurance and that the older logos are often the most deeply cherished.

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