A short time ago, I noticed that a number of well-known companies and products had new logos, including Stop & Shop, Kraft Foods, Cheer detergent, Sysco, QuickChek, and Wal-Mart (note: I’m having a hard time deciding whether or not to include the hyphen when spelling Wal-Mart. I think it’s going away, but their site currently has it both ways.)

 Logos get changed for different reasons and to varying degrees: the need to refresh a tired look, the current logo is no longer accurate, there is a need to repair an image problem, the market has changed, etc. No matter the reason might be, changing a logo or a brand is not a decision to be taken lightly. The change can have a major impact on the perception of a company or a product. And let’s not forget the cost implications involved in making the change either.

What’s interesting about the the companies and products listed above is that there seems to be an consistent, overarching change  to each of them. They all feature new logos with a warmer, friendlier, more organic style and feature some kind of abstracted form of a flower. Big, bold lettering has been replaced by softer, rounder letters that are lowercase for the most part. It seems that forces outside the corporation are dictating the change. It’s not hard to venture a guess what those forces are.

The impact of the economy is one force. People are reluctant to spend money, and subconsciously, the new, bright and cheerful logos help to make people feel good about their purchase.

The reputation of big corporations is another factor. They have come to represent (deservedly or not) the greed that has caused the current economic downturn. For the most part, their old logos suggested security barricades rather than smiling greeters that their new logos suggest.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned here. Your company or product does not live in a vacuum. Be aware of  how people perceive your logo, and your overall brand, not just in terms of how accurately it represents your product or company, but also in broader terms — how people perceive your industry or companies of your size.

Second, although logos should be treated like sacred cows, if there’s good reason to change them, don’t be afraid to grind them into hamburger and buy a new cow. Companies can have an almost fatalistic worry about change – but customers adapt quickly to change and change can be a good thing.