Essay

Why does Walgreens keep changing its logo?

You may not have noticed it, but Walgreens has changed its logo at least twice in the past five years. What? You haven’t noticed it? Well, I have, and it’s bothering me. But then, I’m a little OCD. Lots of things bother me.

I’ve done a little graphic design here and there in my career. I’ve created logos, laid out Web pages, and even designed book interiors. Much like my time as a radio disk jockey leads me to listen to the radio with a critical ear, and my time as an editor makes me notice every typo and grammatical error, my graphic-design past makes me more aware of branding and design.

For 15 years I’ve lived conveniently around the corner from a Walgreens drug store. Actually, I think part of Walgreens’ master plan is that every man, woman, and child in America will live around the corner from one. Four Walgreens stores stand within five miles of my house!

The Walgreens near me has a sign that looks like this. I’ve always liked this logo; I think it has kind of an elegance about it. Has anybody else ever thought that the amount of space between the g and the r in this logo makes this read “Walg reens?”

One of the four Walgreens near me was built last year. When you look at its sign closely, you can see that every letter in its logo has been redone. They’re all a lot taller. The W is now taller than the l; the end stroke of the W is now taller than rest of that letter. The letters are closer together and each letter’s stroke is narrower. The bowls (empty spaces) in the a, g, and e are larger. Also notice the differences in the r and the s.

That made me look at the sign another nearby Walgreens, which was built four or five years ago. I can see that it has differences from either of the other two logos.

Don’t think for a minute that these are just random variations. Companies are quite particular about their logos. Many of them have manuals describing logo usage rules! To produce anything – a sign, an advertisement, a letterhead, anything – that shows the company’s logo, employees are generally required to get the latest version from an approved asset repository. No, Walgreens ordered these logo changes.

But to what end? Only a design geek like me would ever notice the differences. If you polled Walgreens customers, at least 99.7% of them would say that Walgreens has had the same logo for as long as they can remember. Yet the company paid some graphic designer to tweak it not once, but twice! What was the point?

Ok, I feel better now that I have that off my chest. Maybe now I can stop compulsively looking at every Walgreens I pass to see which logo it has. My fellow drivers will be glad to know my eyes will now be on the road.

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19 thoughts on “Why does Walgreens keep changing its logo?

  1. Good eye! I would never have caught the details. I agree with you – successful companies are not impulsive about anything, especially not image and logo. Our company has long and expensive studies supporting their choice to change the logo, the company styleguide which dictates the colours we’ll use on any and all marketing collateral.

    So, the question is, why, if Walgreens spends the time and money to make changes to its logo, are the changes so minute that the majority of its customers cannot tell? Does changing the cursive style really have a subconcious effect on the customer?

    Maybe, and this may be a weak maybe, by changing the space between letters, making the font less bold, Walgreens saves a few feet of material for each store sign. Multiply the savings in cost of materials by 6,300some stores, and you might just have yourself an answer. Maybe.

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    • I never considered that the changes might have something to do with reducing sign production costs!

      I think the subconscious effect is more likely the reason for the changes. Doesn’t the taller/thinner current logo look more friendly and less stuffy?

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  2. I confess that I had not noticed the changes. That Walgreens thought it necessary to make such minor changes, probably at considerable cost, does seem peculiar.

    I wonder if Googling “Walgreens sign change” would bring up anything relevant about the decision?

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  3. I am a total logo geek, and I’ve never really even noticed the space between the g and the r. Hrm.

    Speaking of signage and branding: So, we all know that WellsFargo bought Wachovia. Well, if you live near an Wach, you may have noticed that new WF signage has gone up on every public surface, only to be covered by vinyl Wachovia-branded banners. This is because WF wants to roll out the brand change on the same day in every location nationwide, and the only way to do that is to set everything up beforehand and cover it. I get the point, but it does seem rather wasteful. And the day of the big reveal? April 16, I believe. Right after tax season madness is (theoretically) over.

    cool post, Jim.

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    • I confess to writing this about three weeks ago and leaving it queued up to fire today. Since then I’ve notice that some instances of the oldest Walgreens logo above manage to close the space between the g and the r!

      When PNC Bank bought National City, they did the same thing — put up new signs and then covered them with NatCity tarps. I think ego drives some of this, because the average joe doesn’t care one bit about signs and logos, as long as the bank doesn’t abscond with his money.

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  4. Oh, Jim, I do hope that compulsion doesn’t rub off on me. I once stayed in a motel where the refrigerator was a “Nestingrouse” and I thought how clever those Asian knock-off artists are. Until I, somewhat later and somewhat slow-wittedly, realized that the first leg of the “W” and the top stick and right leg on the “h” had been snapped off, no doubt intentionally by some smarty vandal.

    Posted from Florida, where there is a hospital every three blocks and two drug stores on every other corner. One of which is a Walgreens.

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  5. Rama Sarma says:

    You are not just an OCD, you are discerning and perceptive. You keep burnishing the skills you have acquired along the way and incidentally provide us with delightful reading. Thank you..

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  6. The Walgreens’ store brand is called ‘W’ now, which uses that initial W from the Walgreens logo on all of their products. Listening too commercials or the overhead announcements at Walgreens, you’ll hear them say “‘double-U-brand’ cough drops, ‘double-U-brand’ soft drinks,” etc. That might explain the why they decided to make the W taller and more distinctive than before.

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  7. Jim,

    I’m much more concerned why Walgreen’s keeps increasing their film development prices. I stopped going to local Chicago Walgreen’s when they’re develop film and burn to CD price hit $7.50.

    Why is it Costco can do it for $5.00 and Walgreen’s charges 50% more?

    Richard

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