New Logos at 3Com and Dell
Copyright 2000 Technology Advertising Report
September 11, 2000

When Dell appended "e-com" to its tried and true logo, and 3Com came out with its radically different "wedding rings" logo, they must have known the changes would provoke reactions. TechAdReport surveyed branding experts about their opinions.

About 3Com's new logo, Jim Sterne of Target Marketing ( commented, "Looks to me like a menage a trois and one of them is unhappy. That third ring is forward looking but is also turning away. It's an art thing that missed."

Brent Pulford, creative director/partner at Fresh Advertising (, said, "What 3Com had before was a little more sophisticated. What they're trying to do now is seem unencumbered. Just from a design point of view, I don't get any sense of insight."

Pulford continued, "A radical change in branding is not a good move. It announces we were wrong and we've made a ninety degree turn."

Tom Salvo, senior partner and creative director at HighGround (, added, "When you've got a brand name like 3Com or Dell, you make transitional changes. It really has to be based on a solid strategy. It remains to be seen; we have to see what the strategy is."

Pulford contrasted 3Com's radical logo change with that of companies like Coke and Pepsi, who make subtle, incremental, strategic logo changes year to year. Although these logos are noticeably different from their inception to present time, Pulford pointed out, "It's never so different from before that you have a perceptual problem with it. With 3Com's new logo, people think, 'I thought I knew this company, but based on what they're presenting me now, apparently I didn't.'"

Harriet Donnelly, president of Technovative Marketing, believes that's exactly the point. "3Com has their act together. Their strategy was well thought out, not done overnight. It's all part of a bigger picture we're not aware of right now."

Salvo concurred with Donnelly. "Something drastic has happened to their business by virtue of what I see. They believe they are taking a new direction. That would justify that radical a change."

3Com may be making its bigger picture strategy known in its $100 million television and print advertising campaign. A current commercial features a woman privately appalled by a co-worker's disgusting coughing noises; if only her company had wireless internet, she could pick up with her laptop and continue working.

However, Salvo believes 3Com's new logo will be weak in the print medium. "With the old logo you could reproduce small and large." Salvo speculates 3Com may keep the old logo for that purpose. Donnelly added, "3Com's new logo won't brand as well on other products. It's a little fancier design. They need something simpler for branding."

All interviewed conclude that Dell's logo change is less dramatic. Sterne finds Dell's logo change "more understandable, " but still surprising. He theorized it may be a simple matter of Dell adding artistic flair to its web site.

Pulford was also surprised at Dell's logo change. "'E' anything is so old. Too many people know it for it to be hip. It's a shame. Dell has a good perception in general."

Tyler Blik of Tyler Blik Design ( added, "I can see the logic and the short term reasoning behind the development of the new DELL E logo, but what does it do to the equity of the old logo? It causes confusion with their customers is what it does."

Donnelly disagrees. "Dell's announcing their move into a new market. They've been successful in e-commerce, but they're not known for it. They're known for build-to-suit computers. They want to project a new image, without making a radical change."

When asked to speculate on whether 3Com or Dell changed their logos in response to sagging stock prices, Donnelly commented, "I hope there's an in-depth marketing strategy. It is not going to work for a short-term stock fix. There's millions of dollars involved in changing a logo."

Sterne commented, "It is interesting that their stock price is hurting. You don't see IBM changing their logo." Pulford agreed that IBM was one high-tech that had a distinct marketing strategy. "You know it's an IBM commercial the instant it comes on."

Pulford feels that, in general, high-tech companies are not as sophisticated as more traditional companies when it comes to marketing. "They don't have a context for evaluating a corporate logo. It's like an advertising agency is almost a carpet salesman. If you show them a logo, they ask if you have the same stuff in green. It's the wrong question to ask. Ideally your logo is an expression of a strategy, of what you represent."

Blik added, "Overall, a company's brand is built on recognition and being consistent with their message in the marketplace. It will be interesting to see how 3Com builds that recognition through their advertising and other brand assets. For a company of this size it will take a very strong effort to realize this throughout all of their investments. I agree, many technology based companies just don't get marketing."

When asked why the old guard technology companies still tend to perform well despite their marketing naivete, Pulford commented that it's because they have a good product. However, he added, "Ultimately, if it's a substantial market there will be a ton of parity products and that's when the real test comes. That's when branding becomes important."

Pulford cited Cisco's extensive television advertising campaign as a good example of branding. "It gives them credibility. People start to think they must be bigger than the other guys."

When asked if this sort of subliminal marketing works on techies, Pulford stated, "If your job is to buy the IT system for your company, you're still a consumer. Good B2B marketers understand they're still dealing with consumers. And good marketers know there's a huge emotional connection to a brand, and a logo. That's something you can't quantify."

Copyright 2000 Technology Advertising Report