OppenheimerFunds happened to announce its "new brand" last week at the same time the mutual fund tribes were gathering at their largest annual pow-wow, the General Membership Meeting of the Investment Company Institute (ICI) in Washington DC.
I hesitate to call it a new brand because it appears to be basically a redrawing of the "four hands" logo with some updated typography. (There's certainly more to it than that, but we're not privy to the internal documentation.) The new mark has greater depth and dimension than the old—which incidentally goes counter to the supposed flat design trend reported breathlessly in The New York Times a few weeks ago. OppenheimerFunds's press release described it as a "multidimensional and transparent evolution":
The new look and feel demonstrates our belief in providing greater transparency for investors that operate in an increasingly multidimensional world, and acknowledges that it is no longer enough for asset management firms to simply view the world through the lens of our own industry.
Well, you can take that for what it's worth. Everyone has to come up with a design rationale. The mark itself drew mixed reviews; there were plaudits and there were pans. But at the ICI convention, the biggest reaction we heard was, "Is that all?"
Which brings us around, at long last, to the title of this post: Is rebranding really news?
Typically, a logo redesign is of interest largely to internal audiences. The outside world doesn't really care. Of course, the redesign is intended to have an impact on the outside world by changing how the company is perceived, but that's not supposed to be a conscious process. It should happen subliminally. There are always some companies with such high visibility (like Apple) that the general public is interested in its design, but normally the only outsiders who care are other design and marketing professionals. In fact, if you follow this logic, you probably shouldn't even announce your design changes externally, so they can impact the intended audiences without their being aware of it. But few companies would accept such a radical proposition.
A more newsworthy change, in our view, was the concomitant renaming of OppenheimerFunds's institutional division as OFI Global Asset Management. Apparently, the institutional folks got tired of constantly explaining that they aren't a mutual fund company. What they may not realize is they'll spend the rest of their lives explaining that OFI stands for OppenheimerFunds, Inc. That's the problem with initials. (Just ask KFC.)
Of course, what would really be worth announcing would be the separation of OppenheimerFunds into two words with a space between them. But we'll have to keep on waiting for that one.