Big Bad(?) Surprise: New Holiday Inn Logo

We are totally stumped by this one. Blogger Gentleman Agitator emailed to tell BrandlandUSA of his frustration with a new Holiday Inn logo.

Don’t get us wrong. We love Holiday Inn. But we loved their old lettering. OK, so we here at BrandlandUSA were hopeful that it was the other way around. Perhaps Holiday Inn was bringing back the GREAT SIGN of the Kemmons Wilson era? But no. The new logo is pictured at right, and it was designed by the firm Interbrand for Holiday Inn, a unit of Intercontinental Hotels, NYSE ticker IHG. It comes at a time when the stock has come down from a $25 high in 2007 to around $13 in this latest bear market.

According to an IHG press release, 11 Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels across Europe, Middle East and Africa – plus 19 in the United States and six across Asia Pacific – have been chosen to road-test the changes to the world’s biggest hotel brand, which includes new bedding, new shower experience and, for the first time, a signature scent and sound package. The first two to open in Europe, both in the UK, are the Holiday Inn London Heathrow and the Holiday Inn Farnborough.

In the redesign, they have redone the logo, and eliminated all traces of the old 1950s script. One thing that remains is the green color. The scent is new. Wonder what the scent is all about?

Here is BrandlandUSA’s fear. The new hotels will be significantly improved. And customers will like them. But the problem with that logic is that because so many other things have been improved about the hotels, consumers will feel positive about the changes, even as it has nothing to do with the actual look and feel of the logo. It would be as if you did a pharmaceutical test, and had a control group that not only took the new pills, but also exercised and had a low fat diet at the same time. It seems like IHG, then, already has the answer it wants.

We understand the need for a bit of freshening up. It does a brand some good. No less than our favorite thinker on brands and type, the late Professor Philip Meggs of Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University, said that very often, a company could get great mileage out of a logo change. It was a cheap way to change the message.

But we wonder what Prof. Meggs would say about this change, which is rather like changing the script on the Coca-Cola logo or the Campbell’s Soup Can. The Holiday Inn lettering is classic. They could even name a font after it.

It’s not a bad logo, as logos go. America loves Holidome. America loved Holidex. America loved Sun Spree. We loved those great kids meals with the pirate hats! But our fear is that sometimes, these sorts of typographic changes only are surface dressing. And other more important changes, like more rigorous inspection of hotels, would get forgotten in the clamor to put up new signs and root out stationary that doesn’t conform to the new brand image.

There is one good thing. The unfortunate plastic signs that replaced the GREAT SIGN of Kemmons Wilson will finally disappear. Read Andrew Nelson’s seminal article on the Great Sign, which appeared in the online magazine Salon. He called the replacement signs “backlit, crapola plastic.” And he was right.

During the change, let’s hope that all the old lettering won’t have to disappear from every scrap of paper, trash can and such. That is an expensive process for franchisees. Furthermore, if some versions of the brand continue to stay, it gives the company a bit of history. After all, the previous images of the brand name will continue to exist in the media forever.

But we know these sorts of things are only temporary. Great things endure. And the Great Sign was one of the best.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. The new logo screams mediocrity and runs in a polar opposite to the redesign of their properties.

  2. Bryk

    I guess I could have been nicer. It is a GOOD logo. I just think there needs to be a place for the old one. Perhaps the old one appears in secondary usage. There is the scripty “Coca-Cola” word mark, and then there is the “Coke” word mark, and both are used, but in different ways.

  3. I don’t think you’re giving Interbrand enough credit for the new “highway overpass” logo — I find it wonderfully inventive and thoughtful.

    I have a feeling that the wordmark change has more to do with digital reproduction than aesthetics. It’s iconic, but it’s also kind of clumsy and difficult to integrate with other design elements. But it does seem silly to just discard it.

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