Apple has launched a campaign against China’s Sichuan Fangguo Food Co. over their logo design. They have previously sued other companies (Samsung, HTC, and Amazon) over trademark infringement. Apple believes Fangguo’s logo bears too much resemblance to their globally recognisable logo. Sichuan Fangguo is a food company and yet it also has registered the logo for products such as phones and laptops, products for which Apple is well known. Fangguo believe their logo to be very different from Apple’s. Currently the Chinese company is not fazed by Apple’s lawsuit or demand to change the logo. Admittedly there are several similarities between the designs, but are they enough to cause confusion? Apple seems to think so.
This logo debate has brought up issues of brand identity. According to New York design company Courtney & Co, brand identity is “the visual expression… that is communicated to the outside world” which includes the brand “name, logotype or mark, communications, and visual appearance…” All of these aspects associated with the brand help with consumer perception. Brand identity starts from the very beginning with details as specific as font and colour palette for documents, correspondence and the company website. Even the use of font size is considered when creating a brand. Essentially, brand identity creates an emotional connection. It always starts with the logo; however identity goes far beyond this. A corporate brand identity reaches far beyond the visual recognition to create something more transcendent. For a logo to have long standing power it must be united with a strong, amicable company personality (or identity) and an appealing overall message. Ideally of course this identity will be attractive to consumers. Apple has a very well established personality that transcends its highly recognizable logo and yet is intrinsically linked to it.
But is it the logo or the personality that creates the power of a brand’s identity?
It’s… a little of both. The logo is the face of the company before it has a chance to represent itself with high quality products, salesmanship, and an overall positive message. What emotions the logo evokes in customers is very important. It’s the ground work. Truly effective logo design involves great forethought as well as creative innovation.
When I see the Apple logo, I think: innovation, creativity, community. What I interpret upon seeing that design is clearly more than the logo design itself. Many naysayers believe Apple’s decision to sue companies over trademark infringement is part of an attempt to stomp out other brands. There may be an aspect of this, after all Apple is one of the largest computer and technology companies in the world and one would assume they’d like to stay that way. However, from my experience as an Apple product user for the past 10 years, I would argue that Apple doesn’t need to stomp on other brands. Their products and their vision stand for themselves. Still, their identity and personality is integrally linked to that monochromatic Macintosh apple with a bite out of one side.
In creating a logo that is: 1) designed to look like an apple 2) has a similar bite out of one side; Sichuan Fangguo must know that their logo is competing with one of the world’s most famous designs. Was Fangguo really clueless about the existence of Apple computers when designing their logo? It seems unlikely (though not impossible). Still, if Sichuan Fangguo were truly naïve to the appearance of Apple’s logo, why does their logo feature that familiar bite or missing quarter? What is the significance of this if not to bear resemblance to Apple’s design? Is it to prevent it from looking too much like another design (LG), to which it also bears resemblance?
When a company’s logo is too similar to another, the message of the brand is thinned out. It loses its punch and effectiveness. When, for example, I see that famous Apple logo on a product I expect certain things. If those expectations are not met, my perception of Apple will change. Unfortunately this does not just change how I perceive the product; it spreads through my opinion of the company as a whole. It affects the brand identity.
Is Apple wise to stand up for its brand identity in this case? Or should they let the “little guys” go?