Opinion: Do automotive brands need multiple logos?


Mahindra launched a third logo for... Mahindra. Tata Motors revealed a second logo for – you guessed it – Tata Motors! 

Brand logos are not only going flat, I think they are also going schizophrenic. Mahindra has three now, one for EVs, one for SUVs and one for whatever is left in their automotive portfolio. Tata Motors, too, has one for EVs now. I reached out to someone at Tata Motors saying I didn’t think this was a great idea and asked  “why”. The cryptic answer was, “Since you don’t have full visibility, you might have a skewed take.” Sure, but isn’t that also the case with customers, to whom a logo is meant to address? 

Logos are not for boardroom discussions and personal ego trips. They are all about external stakeholders, especially customers. Of course, in the automotive world, we do see different logos from the same company, but that’s also where the brand name differs. So Toyota created the Lexus and Scion brands and uses different badges for them. GM created a Saturn, Citroen created a DS and Hero created a Vida. All different brands, with a distinct DNA, and so their own logos as well. 

In most cases, when the brand name remains the same, it’s the same logo too. Honda stands as an outlier here, I must mention, with different logos for their Honda bikes, cars and jets, but for nearly everyone else, if the brand is the same, it’s the same logo too. VW carries the same badge across all product types, BWM bikes and cars use the same logo as do Suzuki for their cars, bikes and marine motors. Mercedes also uses the same logo on their cars, buses and trucks, but Bharat Benz, which is a different brand name and thus promise, uses a different logo. 

The everyday customer identifies the brand primarily by the badge. So, if one brand name indulges in two or three different badges, it will confuse the men and women on the street. Thus, I strongly believe you should have a separate logo only if you want to create a different brand name to focus on a specific range/solution and with its own DNA and ethos. You cannot mix up issues here. Under the pretext of the EV or the SUV customer being ‘different’ from the others, justifying a new logo but carrying the same name isn’t the way to go. 

As a Mahindra tractor customer wanting to buy a Scorpio, I would like to see the same badge on both. Besides familiarity and brand promise, it’s a matter of pride too. The same logic holds when a Tata truck operator wishes to buy a Nexon EV, and this works in the reverse too.

Solutions may be different, but the brand is the same, in purpose and promise. Does the brand wish to behave differently with me in different experiential contexts or purchase scenarios? If not, then why different logos?

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