Rethinking Brand Identity After a Merger: A Visual History
Consolidation is nothing new in the professional services industry. The pace of M&A activity has not slowed down in recent years. Many firms, still recovering from recessionary woes, look to mergers to achieve growth goals.
As designers and strategists, we are always interested in how firms align (or don’t align) their brand strategy with a new business strategy. The professional services industry has certainly provided many intriguing case studies. Here, we have created a visual history of the logos of some consolidated firms as they originally were, and the subsequent logo that was created after the merger or acquisition. The way in which firms choose to create their new brand identity can provide some interesting insight into the cohesion (or lack there of) of the separate businesses and cultures coming together.
Formed in 1878, Watson Wyatt Worldwide traces its roots back to the oldest actuarial firm in the world; Watson Wyatt’s first client is still a client 130 years later. Almost sixty years later, on March 1, 1934, Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby opened for business in Philadelphia. Towers Perrin was later established as the umbrella name for the firm.In January 2010, Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby Inc. and Watson Wyatt Worldwide officially merged into a new publicly traded company called Towers Watson & Co, a global professional services company.
The logo for the newly formed company represents each Towers Watson’s employees’ personal commitment to its customers by “putting their names on the line” with a personal signature of the company. The identity is a combination of a strong, pragmatic word mark and an approachable signature symbol. The organic, hand-drawn nature of the logo and graphic system creates a personal and distinctive look amidst the impersonal, corporate, language of its competitors. To echo the hand-drawn nature of the logo, a customized, scripted typeface was created. Not only does the logo mark exude of feeling of approachability and personalization, it seamlessly integrates both “T” and “W” to reflect the joining of two brand cultures and identities in a natural and fluid way.
Historically, Clifton Gunderson and Larson Allen had a lot in common. Both firms were headquartered in the Midwest, founded in the mid-20th century, and, at the time of their merger in 2012, each boasted over forty offices nationwide. “We’re pretty well-aligned … and as we talked, we had no issues on operating models, compensation models or strategic vision,” Gordy Viere, CEO of Larson Allen says of the merger, which is one of the largest in recent years. The merger, completed in January 2012, was a merger of equals. The two firms are of similar size and share similar corporate cultures. The CLA logo reflects this balance, as it is a clear modernization of the separate logos and joins both brands in a new color scheme and layout. Even the logo mark incorporates both brands, displaying an intertwining “CLA.”
It was rumored that an early design for the PriceWaterhouse logo had the outer lines of the stylised ‘W’ splayed. The British partners felt that this looked like the firm had been ‘bowled out’ in cricket and so the more symmetrical arrangement was adopted. In 1998, the global merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand to create PriceWaterhouseCoopers led to the above logo design, which was subsequently shortened to PwC in 2010, to put forth “a concise consistent brand position mak[ing] it easier for people to appreciate who we are, what we do, and how we operate across markets,” says Moira Elms, PwC’s global leader of brand and communications. The new, simpler, more concise logo reflects a more solidified and united corporate brand, which has truly merged to become its own entity, no longer holding onto the identity of past partners.
While “PricewaterhouseCoopers” remains the full name of the global organization for legal purposes, the firm says that the new logo was designed to be “easier to use and better suited to digital and online use.” It will also make it easier for the brand to network in non-English speaking countries, where the 22-letter name does not easily translate. According to PwC executives, the new “PwC” moniker was meant “to strengthen, and modernize how it represents its worldwide network to its clients, its people and the communities in which it operates.” The new logo mark, a six rectangle symbol in shades of yellow, orange and red, is meant to represent PwC’s “connection with clients, employees and the various other relationships that define the firm.”
Perhaps PwC’s brand evolution speaks to the future of consolidated brands, where simplicity and unity is most valued. Overall the new brand identity puts forth an image of modernity, a company that is changing with the times. It is straightforward and accessible – to a younger generation and clients across the globe.
Founded in 1948, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is one of the largest, most prestigious, and highest grossing law firms in the world. Interestingly, the firm — which is known for advising multi-national companies on mergers and acquisitions — has notoriously never acquired a firm larger than 6 people in an effort to achieve growth itself. Despite its long title, or perhaps because of it, the firm is often referred to as just ‘Skadden.’ Their logo, much like their brand history, is simple, straight-forward, and concise. The color red evokes passion and strength in this context, an appropriate color for one of the world’s most powerful law firms.