AOL Rearranges Deck Chairs, Introduces New Logo

Close to severing ties with Time Warner and fresh off announcing that they plan to cull almost a third of their work force by the end of the year, AOL has debuted–why not?–a new logo and branding campaign. The new logo has a variety of backgrounds, but always the new name in a sans-serif font: “Aol.” Yes, with the period.

The question is, does the world even need AOL–er, “Aol.”–anymore?

“AOL had such a clear meaning in the early days of the Internet,” said Allen P. Adamson, managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates, a brand and corporate identity consultancy that is part of the Young & Rubicam Brands unit of WPP.

“To re-establish AOL as relevant today requires a massive shift in what it stands for to be effective,” Mr. Adamson said. “Being around a long time in technology is already one strike against you.”

Although to many, AOL “signals your father’s Internet,” he added, the new brand identity retains the name.

AOLlogos.jpg

AOL Revamps Its Logo, Hoping to Revive Brand [NY Times]
Aol. Generation. Next. [Brand New] (Thanks, Graham!)

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  1. Megalomania says:

    I don’t think being a long-standing technology company is a strike against you… I think being a company shilling the exact same technology for a long time is what tends to put people off.

    • Kitamura says:

      Yeah, an entire generation of people can only think of AOL as being a dial up ISP. Honestly, when they had their disks EVERYWHERE it just sort of stuck.

    • redwall_hp says:

      True, but don’t forget that AOL is doing more than pushing dial up service these days. They own Weblogs Inc. now. (That means they own Engadget, TUAW, Autoblog, Download Squad, and many others.)

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Doing more doesn’t matter if no one has a clue you’re doing it. AOL fell out of relevance about the time they failed to move past being an ISP.

        • admiral_stabbin says:

          You really hit the nail on the head there. They are past tense (for now). They failed to move past being an ISP, and everything they do now is an weak attempt to become relevant again.

          The only value of relevance I can come up with for their brand would be to take what they can get from a search firm (e.g. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft).

          Alternatively, perhaps they should consider disappearing from the commercial landscape for 15-20 years, then re-emerge as some kind of super ISP with a nostalgia factor. At least there would be a glimmer of hope then…

    • redwall_hp says:

      That said, their new logos (and the “Aol.” thing) are ridiculous.

    • Dondegroovily says:

      “Being around a long time in technology is already one strike against you.”

      Like Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, IBM, Sony – Oh wait, those guys are doing just fine.

    • LeChiffre says:

      I agree with Megalomania, nor do I think that AOL “signals your father’s Internet,” I also don’t like the new “Aol” logo. Does anyone see this besides me? AOL is an acronym which dictates the necessity of all caps. Aol makes no sense. Now it looks like a word that is unknown in the English language and who came up with this? I think keeping the AOL with a new colorized logo would be more prudent, but then, what American Corporation shows any prudence in business tactics today? From someone who is very familiar with European business methodologies and thinking it always makes me laugh when in American business methodologies, we are so focused on the “now” instead of the big picture. We have this obsession with “changing” without realizing that change is not always good. In Europe, business practices do not do this and they keep the norm, called “business as usual”. Their business models are strong, resilient, and they are focused on the long-term. We’re too compulsive to see what we’re doing wrong and AOL is a perfect example of what not to do. The problem is the boomer management teams only care about greed and whatever makes them the star for the moment.

    • El_Red says:

      The ”spamming” AOL used to sell its service, and very poor customer service, killed this company.

  2. Paladin_11 says:

    Aol. Lol.

  3. XISMZERO says:

    Tries too hard to look “hip.” Ends up looking like you’re supposed to mumble it. Oh, and upon quick glance, it looks to me like Awol. Ooof!

    • pinkpetunia says:

      I agree. I feel like it should be pronounced like “AWOL” after having a filling replaced and still slurring from the novocaine.

    • Omir The Storyteller says:

      There’s nothing more unhip than trying to look hip. Especially if you’re not hip to begin with.

  4. CoarseLive says:

    Never, ever understood why people used AOL. I mean, as a call-up form of internet access, it made sense. But when phone companies started offering their own service, the writing was on the wall. It had nothing to offer that couldn’t be had for free elsewhere on the internet. AOL was only valuable for chat early on, and I’m certain its gross profits were a function of that. But again, once a person could access the WWW through a browser AOL had nothing unique to offer.

    AOL also screwed itself by refusing to play ball with any advancements. Early on, one couldn’t just browse the internet with a browser one had on one’s computer. You had to run through an AOL portal, and it was slow and painful to use. They wouldn’t let outsiders into their chats.

    I think they just failed to get it completely. I could have told a stock analyst this 15 years ago, but I don’t anyone would listen to a person with common sense.

    • Omir The Storyteller says:

      I spent many happy days on AOL almost 20 years ago. Geez, it’s been that long. Most of it was for chat — I don’t even know if they had an Internet mail gateway back then.

      I even recommended it to my mother because at the time it seemed like it was “computing for the hard of thinking.” My mother, God bless her, never did really get the Internet.

    • humphrmi says:

      Around eight or nine years ago – before the AOL/TWX merger was announced – I was heavily invested in TWX at $65. A few days after the merger announcement, I sold for around $95.

      So I doubt your stock analyst would have appreciated the input.

      But yeah, ever since then … suckage city. Maybe once they get the AOL albatross off their neck, maybe I’ll invest in TWX again.

  5. huadpe says:

    Alright, I’m sorry, but this is just an aesthetically terrible redesign in my view.

    Very, very few companies are served well by trading on an abbreviation rather than a full name. America Online means something, and not even that bad of a something. [ Aol. ] means, well, nothing. It’s written as if not an abbreviation, and yet is nearly unpronounceable. The period just makes no sense whatsoever, and putting it white against a bunch of weird backgrounds makes it more annoying and difficult to read, as well as diluting any message that might have been left. “New” and “hip” are not messages. “Our product does X” is a message. Even Apple, kings of new and hip marketing messages, shows people USING their products in their adverts.

    You want to know what makes a good logo? Look at two of the most enduring ones still around. CocaCola, circa 1890. Readable (if somewhat elaborate text), telling you what the product is (a cola). AmericanAirlines, circa 1960. The logo is one word, eminently readable, colour and capital letters differentiating the words. Tells you what it is: an airline, based in America.

    Image can help you sell something, but you can’t sell image alone. America Online is trying to just sell an image of something. I doubt they’ll find many buyers in the mirage market.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      How do you show someone using AOL? What is there to use that isn’t available free elsewhere? Who uses it that you’d want to show using it? (No one wants to see a suggestion that they should be like the senile old AOL user who checks their email once per month or doesn’t remember that they’re paying for the account at all)

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      agree(1)

      It looks awful and changing it from an acronym to a sentence fragment containing only a nonsense word is just stupid.

  6. parrotuya says:

    INTERNET NEWBIES GOTTA START SOMEWHERE! LOL, GTG!

  7. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    The logo in the upper right seems to signify that Aol. is circling the drain. Which it apparently is doing. Truth in advertising!

  8. pcloadletters says:

    .aol

  9. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    Aol. Your goldfish still likes us, why don’t you?

  10. Noir says:

    All I can think of is “WHY OH GOD, WHYYYYY”

  11. JulesNoctambule says:

    Looks like some mystifying acronym I’d get in a text from my teenage cousin.

  12. Nick says:

    Yes, my brain explodes just like the logo when I think of aol. Check minus.

  13. Tiandli says:

    Aol. is way too similar to Lol. Perhaps they should reconsider the new logo.

  14. savdavid says:

    I wonder how much they paid some ad agency for that “genius” idea? Wow. Aol. Yes, that is what will bring subscribers rushing in!!!!!

    • adamstew says:

      According to the linked article

      “Talk about a challenging assignment for an agency that develops brand identities. AOL turned to Wolff Olins in New York, a unit of the Omnicom Group, which Mr. Armstrong praised for its work on Product (Red), the initiative that raises money for AIDS treatment in Africa.”

      Wolff Olins is the swindler who was able to part AOL with their money for such stupidity.

    • Sneeje says:

      This is almost as bad as the name PricewaterhouseCoopers almost used when IBM absorbed them out of pity… “Monday:” Yes, the colon was part of the name.

  15. metsarethe... says:

    AOL will always have a place in my heart as the first way I used to connect to the internet. That being said I think the newer logo is a lot uglier than the one they currently use.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    Not LOL?
    In Comic Sans?

  17. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Wow. That logo makes me actively sad. Most depressing logo EVER.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      It’s like the logo just gave up and can’t even get excited like AOL! Nope, now it’s just Aol. Not even excited enough for caps. It’s like the Eeyore of logos!

  18. TechnoDestructo says:

    I like the period. It implies finality.

  19. azntg says:

    Why not rebrand to a much more simple:

    Fail.

    (Cheaper and cost effective – especially since there’s plenty of pictures floating around with that word superimposed of images. Free advertising!)

  20. Bryan Price says:

    1. Swims with the fishes
    2. Heavy metal poisoning
    3. Flushed down the toilet
    4. Virus infection if I’ve seen it
    5. Just too scary for words
    6. Parkinsons -or- tape worm

    And I actually signed in without any problems. Yeah!!!!

  21. dwb says:

    Mutton dressed up as lamb.

  22. incident_man says:

    The only thing AOL has to offer besides dialup for those who can’t get broadband is their email service. It’s one of the few that you can actually use with M$ Outlook without having to pay an extra fee (but that may change).

  23. pittstonjoma says:

    The only thing I use from AOL is AOL Instant Messenger. I hope that doesn’t disappear, especially since I love the new facebook features.

  24. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    Oh God, it’s like 2001 all over again.

  25. BytheSea says:

    Even the article doesn’t specify HOW they want to become relevant. What can they possibly do with the company right now that is a working business model, other than become another Yahoo or Google? Nobody liked AOL when it was relevant, it was just what we were stuck with. They only exist now by convincing old people that you have to pay for email and a search page with broadband. They’re a horrible company and always have been.

  26. enabler says:

    Is the green scribble supposed to evoke the feeling one gets from listening to the sound of a dial-up connection? I think the circling wave is missing a Scrubbing Bubble, too.

  27. morganlh85 says:

    AOL is for tech-dumb people who don’t understand how the internet works.

    I remember I signed up for the free trial while waiting for my real internet service to be installed. When I called to cancel and told the guy I was getting broadband, he spent the required 9000 minutes trying to convince me that I should totally keep AOL AND my broadband because of all the awesome features AOL has! lolz

  28. jp7570-2 says:

    This ranks right up there with “The Shack”.

  29. kaceetheconsumer says:

    ME TOO.

  30. DanFromDetroit says:

    When I see this I hear in my head “You’ve got (no) relevance!”

  31. pattymc says:

    Looks like they went outside at HQ, pulled in some random person off the sidewalk and asked them to design some logos using Google image search. I spent two decades in corporate advertising and have never seen anything this pathetic. First rule of logos – do not obscure the logo. Also, try putting these on a give away pen.

  32. rpm773 says:

    I THINK THE LOGO LOOKS GREAT, BUT I CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET MY MESSAGES TO APPEAR ON CONSUMERST. PLEASE EMAIL ME INSTRUCTIONS AT DANCINGHAMSTER65@AOL.COM

  33. Melt says:

    Like the string quartet who was constantly playing on the TItanic…Aol.

  34. runchadrun says:

    I wonder if this came from the same people who came up with the new logo for UCLA (see http://www.identity.ucla.edu/graphicstandards/ ) The logic for the design was: UCLA was founded in 1919. The Bauhaus Manifesto was issued in 1919. Therefore the font called Bauhaus is perfect for our logo.

  35. witeowl says:

    Looks like poor marketing communication to me.

    “What do you want for your new logo?”
    “It should say Aol.”
    “Um, ok. Anything else?”
    “Yeah, it should have something behind it.”
    “Anything in particular.”
    “Nah, we trust you.”
    “Done.” Wow, and before breakfast, too. Easy peasy.

  36. DallasM says:

    Yeah, I guess AOL should have thought about that before they worked so hard to frustrate and lock in their users. They could have ruled the world. All they would have had to do was offer good customer service back in ’96.

    Sucks to be them.

  37. Nighthawke says:

    I hope they didn’t hire a consultant just for that.

    A no-license font, along with stock images from a royalty free clip art operation, just about right for a dying operation.

    I say give them a year, maybe a year and a half before they fold.

  38. TCinIowa says:

    How does anyone who’s e-mail ends in @aol.com expect to be taken seriously?

    If I see that on a resume it gets thrown away instantly.

  39. VagrantRadio says:

    Take a tip from Netscape and just go away already!

  40. rdclark says:

    They left out the second letter — “h.”

  41. bubbledumpster says:

    if it weren’t for aol, my parents wouldn’t be on the internet.

  42. El_Fez says:

    Not to put it too bluntly – but are they out of their fucking minds?!?

  43. trujunglist says:

    god, what a terrible logo. they might as well just roll over and die already. AOL used to be a good place, believe it or not, but not since like 1993.

  44. Red Cat Linux says:

    Wow. Corporate identify melt-down on aisle 5!

    AOL isn’t my daddy’s internet. He has high speed broadband. To really date myself, I was on AOL before it was AOL. QLink (Commodore computers only) was how it started, then once they realized this newfangled IBM compatible thing was here to stay, they changed and after being revamped, became AOL.

    Even other dialup didn’t phase this service. It wasn’t even broadband that did it. It was the onset of the likes of Google, and the expansion of companies of all types into the Internet.

    That’s what AOL had to offer – services you want, made easily accessible. Once the Internet could do that, and provide more choices, service impartial information and bargains, AOL was toast.

    And yet Yahoo! is still around. AOL needs to re-invent itself again instead of flailing around with cheap logos which now compel me to try and pronounce an acronym. I hate that.

  45. henrygates3 says:

    The new logo is ridiculous and doesn’t address the real problem. AOL was always a bloated software application for accessing the Internet. So now, in 2009, what is AOL? What is it for? What does it do? Why do you need it? Supposedly the “period” in the logo represents the pivotal point of what comes after AOL (which frankly no one gets unless you tell them)…so what is it?

  46. scoobydoo says:

    I think a lot of people still think of free floppies and dialup when they think AOL. Nowadays that isn’t even a core business for them. Anyone that reads Engadget or Autoblog is an AOL user. AOL is all about content – and they are MASSIVE in that segment.

    That said – as long as they are still called AOL, everyone will think of those damn free disks and “cancel the damn account” stories :D

  47. AdvocatesDevil says:

    I don’t get it… what was the point again? What ARE they selling now?

  48. thisistobehelpful says:

    I kinda think this logo is ugly. Good job Aol. Try and put a pretty face on and no one will notice you suck!

  49. bmontecastro says:

    Oh, I see, that’s why some links were shut down. It’s good they are trying to change the logo. I hope it does means that there is also a major change in their product and services that will really be helpful. With upcoming new service providers today, they should maintain there competitiveness. Consumers nowadays tend to be really keen on what is new and what is best in the market.

    Cannot understand why they use a “dot” though. It symbolizes the end. ;)

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  50. bmontecastro says:

    Oh, I see, that’s why some links were shut down. It’s good they are trying to change the logo. I hope it does means that there is also a major change in their product and services that will really be helpful. With upcoming new service providers today, they should maintain there competitiveness. Consumers nowadays tend to be really keen on what is new and what is best in the market.

    Cannot understand why they use a “dot” though. It symbolizes the end. ;)

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  51. Eastcoast says:

    Ahha! I’ve got it – the end solution to jobs creation. Hire anyone who want a job to create boring, lame logos for useless, irrelevant companies! Done & done. You can thank me later.