A blog for odd things and odd thoughts.

Branding the brands

Some years ago, I lamented the sameness of a number of corporate logos. I considered writing a little web-game, which would invite the player to match the companies with their logos. A screen-shot might have looked somethink like this:

Match the logos on the left to their corresponding corporate brands on the right.
Red Circle Logo Target
Red Circle Logo Vodafone
Red Circle Logo Bridgestone Donuts
Red Circle Logo Lucent Technologies

I never did get around to it.

So today, when I noticed the new Unilever logo, I had to admit that I was a little surprised. The logo, released late last year, seemed fairly unconventional and even psychedelic for a staid multinational with a huge range of household products.

Unilever Logo

Visiting their animated explanation of the logo I found the typical branding guff. Each of the trinkets was carefully explained. I learnt that the bird symbolises freedom, hair next to hands symbolise softness, and the icon that I thought represented Shoemaker-Levy 9 actually represents clean and healthy. Strangely, spice represents fresh food to the Unilever folks. I associate it more with disguising the taste of unfresh food!

So, I thought it was a pretty cool logo, until I had each of the pieces pointed out to me by the Unilever web-site. Now I see it as reflecting a global brand that includes a lot of sub-brands that have nothing in common! Perhaps “unilever” is a Latin word meaning “forced, or levered, into one place”.

It turns out, a marketers at a recent Brand Summit made a somewhat similar point, arguing that Unilever shouldn’t really put their logo on all of their disparate products. Of course, as Vodafone was one of the sponsors of the summit, perhaps they were just jealous of the novel logo!


  1. “Unilever” is actually a constructed word reflecting the first half of the company’s business plan: “U-nil-ever”, meaning “you, nothing, (for)ever”. The original suggested brand name (wisely rejected by the executive marketing committee) comprised the complete business plan, “Unilever Givitalltous”.

  2. Add Opera Australia to the list of red circle logos. Website has a red background so it doesn’t look as obvious – but the similarity is definitely there on a white background.

  3. Agreed! Opera Australia Logo

  4. Unilever was formed by the Lever brothers and Margarine Unie, which forms Uni-lever – so all your comments on what the name means is bull. You can read all about it on their website. I think their logo is good and shows that at least some companies think about what they would like to represent.

  5. Ellen, thanks for your comments on the logo. Yes, that is the true history of the name Unilever (or at least that is what the Givitalltous family would have you believe!)

    The other suggestions were examples of irony. Be very careful; I think there might be one or two other examples out there on the web.

  6. Someone has created a similar Logo Game to the one I proposed, just not so pointed!

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