New: Logo &
Launched: July 1, 2011,
when the spin-out of Marathon Petroleum
Story in brief:
In the oil business, "upstream" means finding and
pumping the stuff — "downstream"
means refining and selling it. This rebranding enables the
separation of Marathon Oil's up and downstream businesses,
by spin-out of its downstream subsidiary, Marathon Petroleum.
Why? According to Wikipedia, "The split was expected by Marathon
executives to allow Marathon Petroleum Company to focus more
directly on refining, pipeline and marketing portfolio enrichment
while exposing each individual company as a possible takeover
target. " The parts, in other words, may be worth more than the whole, freed
whether to sell themselves or to grow more quickly.
Usually, it's the spun-out business that gets a new logo, if not
a new name. But Marathon's 'M' symbol brands over 5,000
retail service stations in American heartlands, and to change them
would be costly indeed. Since Marathon Oil's leaders themselves had
no appetite for a name change, there would now be two Marathon's in
the same industry; obviously, Marathon Oil would have to look
very different. This was the design challenge assigned to the Houston-based agency BrandExtract
(who for over a decade had
managed the company's Web presence).
To get started, in place of the usual management interviews BrandExtract
conducted a comprehensive
survey of employees (managers included, to be sure),
to uncover their defining dreams and values . According to Guy Parker,
BrandExtract's Chief Creative Officer, employees responded
with surprising passion as well as creative detail (including
unsolicited logo ideas, leaning toward red-white-blue swooshes). And
happily, leaders and employees were pretty well on the same page in
choosing the eight defining brand attributes that would guide
design... nimble, driven, focused, innovative, energetic, socially
responsible, global and ethical.
Because there are now two Marathons out there, neither can rely
on the communicative name Marathon alone; they must add "Oil" or
"Petroleum," signing themselves with their formal names. (Both have
gone further, at least for the moment, adding "Corporation,"
apparently hoping to reinforce perceived autonomy.) The
name predominates, but BrandExtract's designers felt that addition of a new and
different symbol, too, would be the best way to show that Marathon Oil is
a new and different Marathon — thus the
"energy wave" symbol (in clean, unpolluting colors, you will note).
(Note also the optical illusion; seen as 3D, is the wave moving
toward or away from you?)
The symbol is also a source of the
visual tools (curves, colors) which were then used to construct the new
corporate visual system you can see (in development) at
C.E.O. - Clarence Cazalot
Identity design -
BrandExtract, a Houston-based full service agency
Naming strategy: I get it; at the wellhead
it's oil, after processing it's petroleum. But still, to most of
us these are interchangeable descriptors; for us the
"Marathon Oil" and "Marathon Petroleum" invites
confusion. If these entities are to grow and prosper in
autonomy, indeed potentially in competitive alliances, must they
share virtually interchangeable formal-name descriptors as well
as a master brand? This strikes me as
inherently an unstable condition (so bring on an
Design: The symbol is appealing, and it works well as a
I wish, however, for somehow a greater visual affinity of
to the wordmark (whether via letterforms, alignment, size
relationship or some of all). When "Corporation" is removed
from the signature ( see below), this balance can perhaps be
In both new corporate signatures, Marathon Petroleum as well as
Marathon Oil, the inclusion of
"Corporation" is visually costly clutter, communicatively
expendable. It belongs in the address block (if anywhere) and in
first mention in press releases. Lose it from the logo.
Corporate Brand Matrix ratings:
structural, 60% strategic, 0% functional (est.)
The M mark continues to brand
the downstream company...
"Harnessing a wave of energy..."
CEO Clarence Cazalot
"Corporation" is safely implied