A brief branding rant: from Quicken to Quicken Classic

About a week ago, Quicken (formerly Intuit until the company split years ago) announced that it was going to “rebrand” its desktop financial software (for Windows & Mac) from Quicken to Quicken Classic. Supposedly this is to “differentiate” the product from Quicken’s web-based (online) product called Quicken “Simplifi”. Just so you see how earth-shaking this rebrand is, here’s are the OLD Quicken logos with the Q icon.

And here’s the new one:

Hardly earth-shaking is it? Unfortunately, the graphic designer in me slightly recoils against the Q since it visually transforms Quicken into Ouicken. The tail on the Q becomes an afterthought. Also, the word “Classic” implies old & out of date. Like classic rock. You may love it but it’s sooo 1970s.

The bigger issue here is why do this? And why is this new branding being done ad hoc / piecemeal. The only place right now that you’ll see of the new letterforms and icons is within the Quicken desktop program itself. It’s nowhere to be seen on the Quicken website and there’s no companion branding for Simplifi which retains its un-Quickeny look:

Having been through numerous rebranding projects myself (and instigated a few of them), companies ALWAYS find out that it takes more money and effort to make it work than they ever budgeted for. It permeates everything from internal stationery, forms and documents to more consumer-facing things like websites, tradeshow booths, product packaging (yes, Quicken is still sold at retail), media relations, presentations and videos.

All too often, the rationale for a rebrand is “refreshing” or “updating” the look because it’s “tired” or “old”. If a senior manager ever tells you that’s why they’re doing this, be very afraid because that person does not understand marketing, image or branding. Most likely they are rearranging the deck chairs while the corporate ship is sinking.

Quicken has promised that this is just a branding change, but already the various support forums including Reddit are going nuts — and with good reason. The NUMBER ONE complaint about Quicken (Classic nee Desktop) has always been that the company often delivers fluff instead of fixes with new versions. Simply changing the product name and logo plays into this perception all too easily. “There you go again,” said Ronald Reagan.

Is a rebrand really necessary?

So when do you change up the fonts, colors, logos or whatever? Here are a few circumstances where you might consider it:

The company wants to escape its past. Philip Morris, with its strong tie to the cigarette brand, became Altria so other brands like Kraft Foods could live under the corporate umbrella without being tainted by tobacco. Comcast is another example. Long recognized as one of the worst cable and service providers in the US, Comcast rebranded as Xfinity and (briefly) left a lot that bad will behind. Time Warner became Spectrum and so on.

The company is legitimately shifting markets or focus. British Petroleum after its merger with US-based Amoco is a good example of both escaping the past and addressing shifting markets. BP found itself doing everything from solar to wind to mining and since the company was largely US-owned, neither the “British” or “Petroleum” boxes fit. Thus, it became simply “BP” or as the company liked to say “Beyond Petroleum”.

Your name doesn’t translate well globally. This is often the case with Asian companies accessing English or Romance language markets. The huge Korean conglomerate 주식회사 엘지, better known worldwide as LG, is actually the initials for “Lucky-Goldstar”. Nissan Motors used to sell cars in the USA and Europe branded “Datsun”. Now it’s Nissan everywhere. A small Japanese optical company once known as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha rebranded itself in 1988 as Nikon.

You are forced to legally. Sometimes your brand either gets bought up by another company or your company splits off and has to differentiate. Or in the case of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, a trademark court decides your use of the initials “WWF” infringes on the World Wildlife Federation. Oh my! That was a costly one. So the company morphed into Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment and ultimately just to the WWE as mixed martial arts and other things came under its umbrella.

Some smart marketing people realize you have a stupid or generic or other counterproductive name. This is probably the most popular rationale for a rebrand.

  • Generic. I have consulted to a number of companies that don’t realize their name is simply not trademarkable no matter how much money they spend on lawyers. One example was the company “Independent Energy Solutions” located in California. The name is completely descriptive using ordinary English words and, as such, cannot be trademarked! It’s like calling your company “Product Manufacturing & Design”. It’s not unique. In fact, at one time, I noted to management that there were 10 other Independent Energy Solutions registered across the USA. To compound the problem, they decided to start a separate company the owner called “Renewable Energy Solutions”. I told them that they wouldn’t be able to trademark it either. Sigh. They plowed ahead anyway.
  • Racist. Many brand names that once seemed ordinary have become racist in perception. Aunt Jemima’s has become Pearl Milling Co. Mutual of Omaha is removing the Native American Chief from its logo and replace it with a lion. Some of this is based on things that were/are legitimately racial or stereotypical in origin, some is manufactured outrage. I’ll leave you to decide which is which.
  • Counterproductive or stupid or something. Something I never knew until I happened across an article was that Subway (the sandwich shops) were originally known as Pete’s Drive-In: Super Submarines. That’s a mouthful. (Pete was one of the cofounders.) Thankfully they decided early on to change the name to Subway. In the automobile world, Toyota’s Previa minivan was supposed to invoke “preview”. Instead, it became associated with placenta previa, a birth canal problem. The car was renamed the Sienna. (And no, the story about the Chevy Nova meaning No Go in Spanish isn’t true.)

So where does Quicken fit into all this? Personally, without knowing all the details behind the scenes, it smacks of a rebrand because we’re tired of the old look. Let’s face it, financial software is not glamorous, warm & fuzzy or cool. You simply want to know that it does the job, helps you be more efficient and is backed by a solid company. This seemingly superficial remake of the logo doesn’t evoke any of those qualities. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Oh BTW, any marks shown or mentioned are trademarks of their original owners. They are only used here for educational purposes.

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