MFS Investment Management
New: Logo and visual system
Launched: October 9, 2012
Story in brief:
To the surprise and delight of its management team,
this strategically-grounded rebranding effects a personality
change so dramatic it feels like a new company... a company
"reenergized, with a stronger presence and a wonderful future"
said Betsy Pohl, director of corporate marketing.
And what is MFS? Originally (1924) it was Massachusetts
Financial Services (a name abandoned many years ago), where the
mutual fund was invented. Today it is a leading global firm serving
other investment managers, with some $300 billion under management.
in 2010, when this rebranding was initiated, there were no
evident identity problems, other than a somewhat chaotic
diversity in visual materials design; the name and logo themselves
were felt to be adequately functional. But MFS, known as a strong
U.S. retail mutual funds brand, felt itself underappreciated for its
positive momentum (in a down market) and global expansion.
"And we were planning a headquarters relocation," Betsy Pohl added;
"if so much was going to change anyway, we needed to take a look at
branding as well."
Many branding firms were considered; three were asked for
proposals, and in March 2011 Lippincott won it -- for chemistry,
depth of financial services portfolio -- and "we liked it that as we
are a pure play in investment management, Lippincott is a pure play
in branding." Pohl engaged senior officers in a rebranding team,
including the distribution heads, CFO and president as well as CEO
Manning. After the usual interviews and analysis, Lippincott
distilled a new positioning statement that would guide logo
design exploration -- "Building Better Insights."
According to Lippincott's Connie Birdsall, initial design work
retained an initials-based mark, focusing more on a clearer,
more coherent visual system than on the logo itself. But
"Building Better Insights" called for more aggressive,
expressive ideas. The boldest of them, a three-toned rendering
of a jaggedly abstract sculptural form, not only survived early
screenings; in every presentation it won over doubters and
gained enthusiasts. "The symbol says so many things
that ring true for us" said Pohl; "Like our portfolios it ties
many pieces together. Its intersections suggest the
collaboration which is in our DNA. We love its angularity and
its energy." The team also loved the retention, indeed
enrichment, of the deep red heritage color. Though there
was some trepidation, "if we're going to change at all, we
figured, let's change with real impact."
The decision was nailed, perhaps, when the symbol got a name --
"the infinite M." "We had not set out to design a monogram"
said Birdsall "but when an M was seen we were pleased."
Note how the symbol's bended band comes to life
in animation, and provides a
graphic device useful in anchoring the new visual system in print as
well as digital media.
C.E.O. - Robert Manning
C.M.O. - Betsy Pohl, corporate marketing &
Identity counsel & design -
Strategist Michael D'Esopo, creative director Connie Birdsall
Strategy: The old logo proclaimed
"M-F-S" so loudly I felt excluded, ignorant of its meaning.
Now that a symbol is the hero, it feels easier to accept "MFS" as
just a name.
Design: A home run. The symbol is
distinctive and memorable; it is edgy and provocative but
appropriately so. In sum, this is one of those rare
institutional rebrandings whose creative impact can transform both
culture and market presence, taking its own leaders by surprise.
I can't help but remember the sculptural Citgo symbol, designed
also at Lippincott (in the 60s, by Arthur King as I recall) ...
perhaps equally unique in its time for its dimensionality.
Corporate Brand Matrix ratings:
structural, 100% strategic, 0% functional