Everyone who knows about the Mountain Equipment Co-op rebrand by now will have their own opinion about it. For some background, read this post on MEC's blog — and don't forget to read the Facebook comments at the end of the article. The gist of it is that their mountain logo, which had not been seriously altered in the company's 42 years of operation, has been replaced with a square with their initials set in all caps.
My personal opinion is that it's too early to truly judge the strength of the brand, as we have yet to see it applied. In fact, I think it might have been a mistake to unveil the new logo in isolation. No launch fanfare, no unveil video, and no real sense of how the logo will look when it is applied to products and publications. It may also have been a mistake not to be more public with their members about their rebrand process throughout. But this would not be a failure of design but a failure of PR.
I have total faith that Concrete, the highly competent Toronto agency that designed the new brand, has put a ton of thought into the process and has produced a hardworking identity that will stand the test of time. Members and the general public may have bonded with the old MEC logo, and I'm sure it will be hard to embrace anything new, but the logo should stand for the product and company, not individual dissenting members. The only time I can recall that consumer backlash was actually called for and actually caused a reversion to a previous version was the Gap rebrand fiasco. Clearly, Concrete has given MEC a very strong and resolved logo, even if a little unadorned. At least they took it further away from the very similar mountain motif of their cross-border counterpart, REI.
Without seeing it really in action, I think the new logo is appropriate. Utilitarian and highly visible, I can just as easily envision it at the top left corner of their web site embroidered on a Gore-Tex jacket (if logos even get embroidered at MEC). I feel annoyed on both the designer's and client's behalves that a lot of people think this logo is just a cheap box with a font in it — that perhaps anybody's four year old niece could have designed a better logo. But I think, again, this could have been alleviated with a bit more public hand-holding throughout the process.
I look forward to seeing this rebrand more thoroughly critiqued at Brand New, as I am sure they will. Meantime, I will be thinking about how rebranding and PR must work together to bring more people in the loop. Whatever happens, I hope MEC can diplomatically weather the criticisms while standing their ground. They chose a good agency to work with, and they have a good product. Meantime, I'm sure they will not lose any customers because they changed their logo. Where else will they go? Sport Chek?