What Can CMOs Learn From Major League Baseball?

When Jerry Dior, a graphic designer for the advertising firm Sandgren & Murtha, designed the logo for Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1968, it took him only one afternoon to complete the task. In the 46 years since, the logo has been changed a total of zero times--a timespan that's practically unheard of in marketing. Over the years, the MLB has plastered the iconic red, white, and blue silhouette of a batter swinging at a ball on everything from jackets and T-shirts to bumper stickers and coffee mugs. The image is timeless--it's not modeled after one single player or specific ethnicity, and the batter could be either left or right handed. Plus, the logo is easily recognizable regardless of whether or not you're a baseball fan.

So what can CMOs learn from the MLB's logo success? It may seem obvious, but it's simple: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. In an era when companies are forever trying to stay relevant, especially with the ever-changing technological landscape where social media reigns, it's easy for marketers to think that the easiest way to increase revenue is through rebranding. But that's not always the case.

In 2009, Tropicana (yes, the orange juice company) underwent a complete overhaul. The public outcry was so loud--not to mention its sales plummeted 20 percent--the company quickly reverted back to its iconic straw-in-an-orange logo. And the list of poorly executed logo redesigns doesn't end there. Gap, AOL, and Pepsi have all found themselves under attack by loyal customers and business experts alike. Why? Humans are creatures of habit, and an unexpected (not to mention poorly executed) rebranding can disrupt the status quo. The fallout can be even more severe nowadays when practically everyone has access to social media. With a few simple keystrokes, anyone can air their concerns directly back to a company.

But not all logo changes need to end in failure. Going back to the MLB, nearly all of its teams have seen multiple logo changes throughout their history. Although some have been a bit questionable and look like scribbles (I'm looking at you Detroit Tigers) or would make for a better tattoo than a team logo (Pittsburgh Pirates), some were so poorly designed in the first place that a complete overhaul was expected--and encouraged.

But unless you have a crystal baseball, it's nearly impossible to predict the outcome of a rebranding. Here are some tips you should consider before making the change:

  1. Ask yourself the following questions: Why should I do a rebrand? Are sales dipping? Are customers showing less interest in my company? Will rebranding solve these problems or is there another option?

  • If you decide to move forward, research other brands. Ask yourself what makes their logos pop. What are these brands doing that make them successful and noticeable to consumers?
  • Have a recognizable transition that makes customers aware of the impending changes. This is where social media can come in. Ask for honest feedback from your followers before you formally launch the rebrand. You want to make sure your brand is still recognizable to customers; don't take them by surprise.
  • Changing for changes sake is bad, so don't just rebrand for the sake of rebranding. Make sure you have a clear reason to change things up.
  • You've heard me talk about a brand being a promise delivered. So everything you do, show, design, or display needs to show the value of what you're going to deliver. Now, talk to me: As a CMO, what are some of the pros and cons you've experienced working on a rebranding?