Rarely does a simple logo change have so strong and direct an impact as in the Eastman case.
As so often, it started small. Tennessee Eastman had recently consolidated its U.S. identities under the Eastman Chemical Company umbrella, and wanted next to rethink its various European legal names. The Clarion Marketing agency, on Eastman’s behalf, activated our affiliation.
It was immediately evident that legal names were not really the problem; the problem was the Kodak brand.
We were excited to discover that under CEO Earnie Deavenport, Eastman’s leaders were well along in a visioning effort: the strategic intent, “World’s Preferred Chemical Company.” Our identity conclusion: unless you are prepared to walk away from the Kodak brand, you cannot hope to become the world’s preferred chemical company. You will always seem an afterthought, selling chemical byproducts (probably acetate-based.) Our recommendation: drop the Kodak “K.” Emphasise instead the word “Eastman;” preempt it, in effect take it away from Kodak.
This took guts. Eastman wasn’t even a company, but a $3.5 billion division of Eastman Kodak. Management told us independence was not in the cards, not for ten years anyway. They should walk away from the world’s fourth best-known brand?
But this was exactly the point. And Earnie Deavenport leapt at the chance a logo change afforded to send a signal to the marketplace, to his own people, and incidentally to Kodak. In his immortal words: “It’s time to get off the porch and hunt with the big dogs.”
The new logo was designed at Clarion by Rick Marciniak. Chemistry students will recognize the Erlenmeyer flasks in the “A”s.
The impact? Within a year, not ten, Eastman became an independent company, spun off to the Kodak shareholders. And for good measure, won a Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.
Did the new logo cause these events? No. Their common substantive cause was Earnie Deavenport’s confident commitment that Eastman would determine its own destiny. The logo had undeniable impact -- but only because it gave visible form to Deavenport’s vision.
And that’s identity, at its best: vision, made manifest.