Late Friday it was leaked that DC Comics had registered for a trademark on a new logo. Before anyone gets too excited (or agitated), this is a small step in a much larger process and strategy. There is still a lot we don’t know and it will be a while before we see anything in production. But as someone who loves comics and works in marketing and branding, this is the kind of thing I love digging into.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) public database, trademarks have been registered for both DC Comics and DC Entertainment. “Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark. The mark consists of the letter “D” flipping back to reveal the letter “C” and DC COMICS.” (or DC ENTERTAINMENT in the case of DC Entertainment).
Now it is possible that DC is just legally covering their bases and are still planning on doing some tweaking. But applications were filed for 19 different “Good and Services” categories for both DC Comics and DC Entertainment. To me that feels pretty aggressive. They’re laying claim to this logo not only on their comics, but all of their merchandising. And they’re doing so for DC Entertainment as well. Once the trademarks are in place, I think is the logo we’ll start seeing.
Speaking as a marketer, logos are a pretty big deal. They’re the public face of an organization and should be part of a larger brand strategy. A good logo is (or becomes) easily recognizable and visually conveys what a company is trying to “say” to its consumers. With this proposed DC logo, the “peel” is the most obvious element. To me, it looks more like turning a page than peeling anything. I think the image is trying to spotlight DC’s quality stories and their long legacy as storytellers. It feels like something a publishing company would use. From more of a design stand-point, I expect we’ll most often see this logo in the classic DC blue, like previous logos, but with the trademark they’ve left themselves the flexibility to use other colors as well, like they do on the current comic covers. My only real criticism is the amount of shading and gradient in the proposed design; I don’t think the logo will render well in two-color printing. There is always a subjective element to logos, but what’s important to remember is that this logo was most likely designed by an agency that specializes in design and brand management to convey a specific message. I think this does that.
Logos are also not something that should be changed often. The current DC “swish” logo has only been in the market for 6 years, and had to compete with the much more recognized “bullet” that had been used for thirty years. The swish has barely had time to grow any legs, so I think it’s interesting that DC is looking to replace their logo so soon.
On the other hand, DC Entertainment was “launched” in September 2009 and has yet to have any kind of brand identity. Aside from what was outlined in the main press release, I’m not sure what exactly DC Entertainment does. Up until now, it feels as if DC and Time Warner are just branding one of their internal departments. A logo, particularly as part of a larger branding strategy, will hopefully change that soon.
Still, I can’t help but feel like the timing on this is off. I know it takes a while to develop and implement a new branding strategy. But it’s been over two years since DC’s restructuring, and with the New 52 launch, the comics publisher has been working hard to expand its market. I can’t help but feel that they missed a valuable opportunity to present a new logo and new brand identity with the start of what was touted as a “new and refreshed line of comics”.
I’m sure it’ll be several months before we see anything start to happen with logos at DC. And I’m sure we’ll see some other changes in their marketing and advertising at that time too. But it appears DC is definitely doing so freshening up in terms of its image.