We welcome your comments on the article written by Gaston van de Laar, Client Services Director at CARTILS, Amsterdam
At the end of September, Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad approached me for commentary on HEINEKEN’s new corporate logo, which has been recently rolled out. In my answer to the reporter, I described the new corporate design as being a little on the ‘soft’ side and too close to the ‘friendly’ associations of the premium Heineken beer brand.
The agency’s brief was to draw a stronger dividing line between the Heineken beer and the corporate HEINEKEN logo, which embraces a range of brands globally. When receiving such a challenging, yet exciting, brief, strategic brand design teams need to ask themselves how far they can move away from the existing Heineken visual image without risking the loss of Heineken’s core brand values.
HEINEKEN differs from competitors such as AB Inbev and SABMiller in that it is more of a branded house rather than a house of brands. Comparing HEINEKEN with other big multi-brand conglomerates, the company has a single global flagship brand while the brewer’s additional brands in local markets surround the main Heineken beer product. With this clear focus, it becomes natural for designers to use the brand product logo as the starting point for the corporate visual image. The use of the brand specific green, combined with the iconic red star, seems downright unavoidable.
Pic: HEINEKEN corporate identity in 1998
Pic: HEINEKEN corporate identity in 2003
The trick for brand managers and strategic brand designers is to clearly identify and understand the connotations of the different parts within a brand or logo design. By breaking down the logo into separate components, such as font, colours and icons, and analysing their individual values and meanings, brand developers can create a guide to which features are essential and which are redundant to convey a specific brand message.
The new HEINEKEN corporate logo is capitalized in ‘Heineken-green’ letters together with the red Heineken star (described as a red ‘spark’ in a corporate press release). The use of capital writing is a good and logical choice. It radiates trustworthiness and confidence while creating greater distance between the corporate and product brand. The choice of typeface, on the other hand, softens the logo and weakens its position as a vehicle for communicating corporate identity. The result is a logo that comes across as ‘soft’ and ‘friendly’ rather than authoritative, stable and trustworthy.
The Heineken star belongs to the product branding and is closely related to the beer brand. By using the star in the corporate logo, the designers keep the brand close to the product brand category, which contradicts the intention to move the two visual identities further apart. A more efficient solution could be to omit the icon altogether, or create a new icon to differentiate the brand.
While the use of capital fonts helps build corporate values, the agency has played it safe with the use of green and red. These colours, although they express Heineken beer’s brand values well, far from have a same corporate weight as, for example, the colour blue. With the strong existing awareness of its brand name, HEINEKEN should realise the freedom it has to experiment and push its own limits in terms of its corporate branding. In addition, a more revolutionary development could have served to better underline the significant business transformation HEINEKEN wished to express through this corporate rebranding.
About the Author
Gaston van de Laar is the Client Services Director at CARTILS, an international brand design agency with offices in Amsterdam and London. Gaston has over 20 years of comprehensive design and branding experience and is overseeing all strategic and creative output and responsible for client relationships.