Can A Logo Lead A Brand Renaissance?

Have you seen that new restaurant around the corner? I can’t wait to try it!

Okay, so that’s not how we make our dining choices. For local restaurants, it’s more likely a friend told us how much they enjoyed the food. Or Instagrammed a photo of their burger. Or posted about the great selection of draft beer. If it’s a national chain, maybe you chose to dine there because you saw a commercial on TV, or maybe you were in the mall, and wanted Italian, or Tex-Mex, or a burger, and one of them fit the bill.

Whatever your reason for going that first time, you’ll return again because the brand experience met your expectations:

  • Friendly, prompt service.
  • Attractive décor, comfortable seating.
  • The food tasted good.
  • The value of the food aligned with the prices.

For most restaurants, big chains or boutique, a returning customer is the secret to success. So when Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden, saw that sales were slipping, they added new menu items and new promotions. They also debuted a new logo to reinvigorate the chain. In fact, they claimed the new logo will lead a brand renaissance. But, it seems the revival is backfiring as Olive Garden shares dropped 5% the day of the unveiling. The new logo is also getting battered on social media:

“People Hate Olive Garden’s New Logo” – Business Insider

“Olive Garden’s New Logo Probably Can’t Save Olive Garden” – Time

“Olive Garden’s New Logo Looks Like a Second-Grader’s Cursive Practice” – Slate

If sales are slipping, chances are the Olive Garden has a bigger problem than its logo. The brand has likely lost its relevance as consumers have shifted from casual dining to fast casual dining–quality food with quick service. Why wait an hour for a table service when others can get you in an out in half the time? And, unlimited breadsticks are probably not on the Obama’s menu for a healthy America.

It also doesn’t help that their approach seems to lack a brand strategy; and it employed an outside-in approach for developing the all-important brand visual that was tasked with saving the day…the logo. It was reported that “Darden ‘conducted extensive testing and quantitative research’ to ‘shape and validate the new design,’ Dave Pickens, chief restaurant operations officer for Darden, said in the presentation investors and analysts.”

The lesson here: while a logo is an important and prominent visual expression of the brand, it is doomed to fail without a strategy.