What’s so “Super” about Supermarket logos?

10/11/2006

Supermarkets have become the heartbeat of retail industry. Not only can you pick up your traditional groceries and food shopping, but you normally expect to be able to purchase DVD’s CDs, kitchen appliances, children’s toys and even clothing, from the average supermarket.

With Supermarkets having nearly almost destroyed the independent retailer they are now battling away against each other and the giants of other industries to increase their incomes. This is happening online and offline and involves huge amounts of money. If they keep going supermarkets will have a thumb in most other industries pies and will be in a strong position to take over many other customers of other retailers. The key to their success is that we all need to go to supermarkets to purchase our every day needs. They have a captive audience and will, and have used this to their advantage. In the UK the top 4 supermarkets 9 (Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s) are thought to sell over 70% of all UK groceries.

But what do the logos of these enormous giants say about them? Below are some examples of some well known supermarkets.

Supermarket logos

Wide Audience Appeal

Overall then we can see that all of these companies have very general and open brands. There is not much to them, apart from text, which I guess is one of the simplest ways of designing an open brand. This simplistic form makes them non-obtrusive and non-offensive to their very wide target audiences.

Also have you noticed that the names of these brands do not mean much to the customer – no inspirational buzz brands like”nice ‘n fresh”, just simple names and abbreviations. Take for example ASDA – this is an abbreviation of “ASquith and DAiries” who merged to form the chain. Do customers know this? No. Do they care? Maybe not. Do they respond to the brand? Yes – although they may not realise it. The point we are trying to make is that a brand name does not need to be understood to be successful. Like, for example, “Nike” was the Greek goddess of victory – few people know that, but they still wear their trainers.

Outdated Styling

Most of these logos have not been updated for a while and therefore from a design perspective they look outdated and old fashioned (for example I refer to Tesco and Farmfoods). Old style spacing, typefaces and shapes (Eg. Morrisons, Netto and Farmfoods) are prominent.

Those that have recently updated their brands such as Sainsbury’s and M&S have done a good job. Personally I feel that the M&S branding is spot on – open friendly and fresh. Its instantly recognizable and judging by their recent form, is doing well. Sainsbury’s again is a very strong, modern brand – I think its the colour and typeface that make the impact. Its interesting that these 2 higher end chains have been more bothered about their brand updates than the others – do higher paying customers respond more to modern branding? I suspect so.

Colours

The colours of these logos are vast and various. One thing that surprises me is the lack or organic colours (greens and browns) seeing as the majority of their stock is food. Something that interested me recently was a poster campaign done by Tesco’s in which they abandoned their traditional red and blue for more earthy tones – it seems then that the brighter primary colours don’t sit as comfortably with food photography as maybe more natural colours. Below is an example of one of these posters – others were also produced in a brown tone.

Tescos Poster
Also there is a colours psychological connotations – lime greens are fresh and healthy – browns and oranges are warm and inviting. However these colours are few in the selection of logos above.

3D Logos

Viewing in 3D

When you look at these logos flat and on a white background we are not really doing them credit. Many, or I might even go as far to say, virtually all, are mostly seen in 3D form. Large green ASDA signs are a characteristic of their stores – these normally work very well and can even make old fashioned brands like Tesco’s look modern. Full marks for the sign makers.

When it comes to bags and labels however most of these brands do not look as modern and inviting as they could. Also online and on TV advertising they are normally flat making the older brands look dated.

Should Supermarkets Care?

But do we care? Will you worry about the brand of your local supermarket or will you shop at the nearest? Most people are mostly effected geographically – however when it does come down to making a choice I personally would far rather go into a Sainsbury’s store, for example, than a Farmfoods. The experience is better – the staff are better trained – the store seems brighter, more thought through, more moulded to my needs – the experience of shopping is better. Eg. the brand on the wall is not only more modern but the values of that brand are carried through to everything I see, smell or feel. Yes the price is slightly more but overall not that much more.

Whether it’s a supermarket or a big company, their logo is how they are recognized. Logo products are a way these businesses promote themselves with their customers. Clever promotional items can include stress balls, pads of paper, pens, or even promotional travel mugs all featuring their logo. That’s why it’s so important to have a well-designed logo.

So overall then we are saying that customers are not bothered so much with the look of the logo – but more bothered with where stores are geographically and the price of their goods… Other factors are secondary but, we feel, do have an impact on a customer in some small way – especially those higher-end super markets.

So should Supermarkets make more of an effort with their branding? On one hand it may help to attract a higher paying customer – but on the other hand, familiarity may be lost. One thing is for sure and that is that these companies are here to stay for the foreseeable future – so we had better get used to them…

What do you think dear reader? Do these logos appeal to you or not?

I wonder what would happen if one of the supermarkets suddenly broke away from the barriers of tradition – would they open up a new market? Would you be attracted to them? Vent your views on the branding of Supermarkets….

This article can also be found on Fadtastic.

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Attitude Design

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8 Responses to “What’s so “Super” about Supermarket logos?”

  1. Steve Tucker says:

    Nice article. An interesting look at popular examples of design which we pass by every day without sparing so much as a thought to.

    Kudos on the background research too – I never realised that “Nike” was the Greek goddess of victory. Alas however, I dont wear their trainers :)

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  3. Sarah D says:

    amazing, a real insite into the supermarket industry and their effect of branding on a wide audience.
    Thoroughly enoyed the article. Made me think a lot. Good research.
    Hope to read some more of your work in the future. :)

  4. [...] Reading attitude on supermarket logos it suddenly occurred to me how they have that typical Web 2.0 look and feel. Matthew, a fellow Brit, neglects to point out that many of the logos make use of reds and yellow within their design. Apparently these colours elicit hunger in people. Take for example Burger King, Macdonalds or Macydees as we like to call it in the north. It’s not surprising that Tesco is crawling with people even a little bit of colour can help do that. Talking of food… [...]

  5. Florian says:

    Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog :-)
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day :)

  6. Sally says:

    This article caught my attention whilst looking for logos for some research. As a graphic designer, I try to take notice to things like this, and in all honesty have noticed how old the Tesco sign looks. I also however think that the Netto logo is pretty damn cool in a sort of retro way. You bring in good points about the colour schemes and 3D signs. Food for thought. Nice little read.
    Ta.

  7. Birks says:

    It’s only just dawned on me why I don’t like the BBC Sport logo – the colours are exactly the same as Netto..
    Interesting, as the Netto logo isn’t the worst logo in the world, but the store itself is a horrid hell hole. So by association of the logo, I always look on BBC Sport with a slight disdain.

  8. Very unique and interesting blog entry. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I do agree with the fact that the supermarkets have too much power these days and I don’t know why the competition commission hasn’t intervened more than it has. They are killing off businesses.

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