Saturday, July 07, 2007

Unilver's new logo - so?

Dunno if you've noticed but Hindustan Lever (HLL) is now Hindustan Unilever (HUL). And the familiar green logo is now a blue 'U' made of little bits floating in the air.

And each of those bits apparently represents the company's new mission: adding vitality to life. 25 different icons which stand for - 'our brands, our people, our values'.

Not that I would have known, really. Until, as an HUL shareholder, I received this enlightening piece of communication (please click on pics to see enlarged image).

On the one hand, you have general symbols like:
Sun: All life begins with the sun - our primary source of vitality

And specific ones like:
Palm Tree: It produces palm oil as well as many fruits - coconuts and dates - and also symbolises paradise. There are icons for 'Sauces or spreads', 'Lips', 'Ice cream', 'Tea', 'Fish' and even 'Container'...!

Now I am no design expert but my first thought was - should a logo require a two page note to be understood? An ad agency whiz I showed it to remarked,"This looks like a logo designed by a committee... Sab ko khush rakhne ke liye ek ek icon daal diya."

Of course there are some who feel the new identity communicates a 'fresh energy and wonderful texture'. For the ordinary customer, who identifies more with 'Lux' or 'Surf' than the parent brand 'Unilever' I suppose it hardly matters anyways.

Incidentally, the makeover has taken 3 years and over 7 million pounds.

While I do appreciate the need for a behemoth like Unilever to be seen as more 'open and 'friendly' I also think some of the dilemmas facing the company are due to the product categories it operates in.

Soap, detergent, sauce and tea are an important part of our lives. But these aren't categories people are passionate about any more.

Simply put, there is a divide between companies in the digital and non-digital space. “We are used to the idea of a world where change happens in long cycles,” Santosh Desai said to me when I interviewed him for this piece on the role mobile phones play in the lives of young people. “The Internet, and more so, the mobile, give us a sense that the world needs to update itself constantly.”

Companies rooted in real world products can't keep up with that pace. But they will need to. How? Through constant reinvention - even redefinition - of product and purpose.

The logo, I hope, is just a start.


  1. Why a new logo now? The green HLL Logo is so well recognized by Indian consumers and gave them a sense of quality assurance that this product is from the HLL group. Now HLL should spend millions to get the new logo inside the consumer's head.

    But the new logo with the number of values it tries to enlist could work well in instilling values to employees about what the company stands for.

  2. why did you delete your post about the racial profiling of terrorists? it was a good post. we need to discuss about such things, however controversial they may be. am disappointed you chose to play it safe and delete it

  3. oh, I have not been in touch with what's been happening - I just posted on logo changes (in general) this morning after a discussion I had in Bangalore yesterday on the Indian Airlines name / logo change. Most appalling of all is the way companies talk about how much money they have spent on the "make-over"... and what they have left at the end of it is a so? from the consumer.


  4. When committees work on logos, they come up with the likes of 'London 2012' - you have to see to believe how stupid a bunch of groupthinkers can get. Unilever's logo appears good in comparision.

  5. First time to your blog, Rashmi, though I had read about JAM magazine some time back...quite a variety of topics you have covered !
    Yes, having worked in HLL briefly and with other 'pre-internet' era companies, I do agree with you that such companies do find it to adapt quickly...predominantly because the culture that they have built over the years is based on principles of the earlier times...however, I agree that change is imperative and logos may not be the major mascots of the new era...there are newer modes which they will need to adopt...

  6. "A donkey is a horse designed by a committee"

    Pardon my insolence, Miss Bansal - I know you are an MBA, but for all the MBAs that "Management" Institutes churn out, "managers" are found dew and far between. You get marketing gurus, financial analysts dime a dozen, but very few come out with the ability to manage - whether it be a small team or a large business.

    Maybe this doesn't apply as such to HUL - but the new "branding" reeks of it.

  7. The new logo does give the youthful and vinrancy to the brand needed in the fast evolving digital world

  8. Rashmi,

    i have just seen the logo and my first impression is not very diffrenet from several opinions expressed above. I am in advertising & the main thing taught to us in the communication is that a logo is 'good & effective' if it can be easily read even in a washed out Fax! Now decide for yourself, if at all these various elements denoting God-knows-what would be of any use were you to receive a bad b/w fax copy of it.
    i think they should have just left it at unilever only that is writeen below U.

  9. Hello,

    I liked ur blog so much

  10. HLL is underperforming this year. Hope it will give decent returns after these re-designs.

  11. Hi Rashmi,

    am a big fan of yours and have subscribed to your RSS feed. Anyways, just wanted to drop by and let you know that your blog's worth is $270,414.66

    Amazing huh!!! Here's the link:


  12. Hi Rashmi,

    I wanted to post a comment about the racial profiling blog of u'rs but found that it has been deleted...anyway...u'r "solution" for handling racial profiling has atleast 2 loopholes...

    1.what prevents them from getting fake passports with non muslim names??

    2.there was a report in Pune TOI about a guy (hindu) who was working as an agent for ISI.How do we handle such cases??

    Did not expect such a half baked arguments from you.I do not think that a complex problem like this can have a simplistic solution.




  13. Hi Rashmi,

    700 million and 3 years for Crap!! I like the Previous Green Logo, which is very simple.
    Who wants to Remember all 25 icons.
    U shape Dark Blue is not an good Idea. Thats my opinion.

    Logos are designed for recognition of a brand or a company. The US Major Retailer Taget's Logo was recognised by 92% of the People.

    The story behind Mind Tree consulting logo is very intresting. It was designed by an student of Spastic society.

    Its worth Reading.. Is HUL listening..??

  14. fmcg u need to keep reinventing brands to keep them alive and the mature level of Product life cycle u need to make noise to keep it alive...

    plus Unilever has a single branding all over the world...eventually u will see Hindustan also being dropped and it being changed to just Unilever...

  15. "Simply put, there is a divide between companies in the digital and non-digital space."

    Bang-on! It even explains why the smartest ppl in the MBA class dont go to Unilever anymore. Steve Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi in 1983 with this legendary quote..

    "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?"

    Replace sugar water with soap/atta/shampoo and I guess you get closer to Unilever's real problem ... at least in India where most of its best and brightest are leaving for PE/VC/Consulting ... a new logo doesn't do much to address that does it?

  16. Hey

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  17. Yet another stale news, with a new packing. Rashmi your blogging standards need urgent revival. Please update yourself for God's sake.

    This Unileve logo was unveiled way back in 2004. My frend who was working with Unilever as a technical writer had showed this logo way back. Don't believe me, take a look here:

  18. Rashmi, I am not sure if this logo has been introduced in India. It's more of a Unilever logo rather than a HUL logo. And if I am not mistaken till last night the TVCs were showing the same green logo.

  19. it looks as if you got bundle of small invertebra creatures, tapeworms, fungi, earthworm, and all those disgusting living specimen with shape as letter U, to obvious, its unilever. there are people who can associate this with FMCG product consumed daily at indians home.
    isn't it wonderful, people who worked over it definetly deserve those million pond. otherwise who can dare to be so smart.

  20. hii 2 ur blog ,in fact frst time 2 any blor! so may b distracted wth wht i meant hr 4...but tht's all,i guess, blogging is a'bt!!
    althgh d firm isnt mine n d great persona may hv thought smthng good for d firm following ths logo...d logo doesnt going 2 get in sync as tht prvs 1 thy xpln tht those dozns of species r mnt 2 rflct our good hlth....ask thm if thy can find out directly frm d logo tht wht r those items??

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