Rant: Was Netflix really in need of a brand refresh?

By Hawk Vice-President and Creative Director, François Giroux

The first thing creative types will argue for is change. They love change. Changing looks, changing décor, changing client’s visual identity, typefaces, images, logos... Keeping things fresh, modern, energized. Putting their stamp on things. YES to all of it!

But sometimes it takes more courage and vision, to just stay put. For me one of these occasions may have been Netflix’s brand refresh.

A few months back Netflix quietly announced that they would be changing their ‘retro’, popcorn-craving, fun-inducing, iconic white-on-red movie logotype. What they released was a pretty bland, flat, red word mark that resembled the old version. On social media at least, the reaction to the change was negative. Look here and here

At the time I thought at best it was a hoax, at worst a trial balloon. I LOVED THE ORIGINAL NETFLIX LOGO! Surely they would come to the same conclusion GAP or Tropicana did a while back and forget the whole thing? Nope. The 3D type and the black dropshadow that gave that brand so much character is being phased out.

Maybe THAT’S what bothered me more than anything: There seems to be a developing trend to replace anything that has an idea or bit of character, with type and graphics that have no charm and no style because of a false notion that for something to be current, it needs to be minimalistic.

 The Netflix change bothers me on many levels.

 As a consumer of Netflix, the old logo seemed to give off all the right vibe. It took a product that was primarily technology-based and somewhat intimidating when it started, and gave it a face that was welcoming and fun (and yes, it had the power to induce popcorn cravings).

 As a marketer I can only speculate as to why a change was even needed, but when I look at the ingredients required to create a successful identity or logo design, the old logo seemed to hit the mark:

 1) It was simple;

2) It was unique in its style, making it memorable;

3) I believe it was timeless, although I’m sure some in the company felt the 3D movie poster look didn’t fit what the brand stood for anymore;

4) It worked well on all the surfaces where the brand needed to be – in fact, the opening screen on my large monitor looked FANTASTIC! and;

5) It conveyed the right message and was totally appropriate to the type of business Netflix is.

 As designers or marketers, shouldn’t we spend more time trying to differentiate brands and help tell a story that is compelling, ownable and timeless, and less time trying to show that we can be trendy? Shouldn’t we pause and think about what we stand to lose (and not only what we stand to gain) by re-branding?

 Until then, great logos will continue to be lost, only to be brought back one day, when someone smart enough will realize they might have had something back in 2014.


Posted on August 7, 2014 .