There’s a real tension in Corporate America between the individual’s desire for creative expression — to make a mark — and the corporation’s desire to cut costs.
When that individual happens to be a product manager, a marketing or brand manager, or a “creative,” it’s not uncommon for them to drive new variations in how the brand is expressed. These variations tend to crop up in conjunction with new product launches or line extensions. As a result logo treatments and other aspects of visual identity can vary all over the place.
The October 2007 issue of Fast Company makes this point all too clearly. The story opens with HP’s new CEO, Mark Hurd, asking his senior design team why they were bothering to meet with him (so early in his reign…) The article goes on to say:
The ponytailed Sam Lucente, who’d become HP’s first-ever vice president of design two years earlier, was in the hot seat. He flashed a slide that showed dozens of HP logos, each created by a different team within the company. The next slide was of a single logo, crafted by his corporate design crew, that could be used everywhere. Lucente predicted that when 500 million of the new “jewel” logos were shipped, the company would have saved roughly $50 million in development and manufacturing costs.
As the Fast Company article goes on to say, organizational dynamics and culture can make it difficult to achieve brand consistency, even when variations are costly:
But it’s one thing to win backing for a big design initiative from the CEO, who is thinking about the entire company. It’s something else to get executives and managers who run specific business units to embrace corporate design edicts. HP has scores of business units organized into three main divisions — personal systems such as desktop and notebook PCs; imaging and printing; and software and servers — each with its own P&L. The company’s 250 designers report to the heads of their particular business units, who are used to operating independently. Lucente may want to create companywide standards, but he can’t necessarily enforce them.
Stay tuned. It will be interesting to see how effective Lucente can be at reining in HP’s independent thinkers and product managers.