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Innovation, Fun, Energy and…Buffaloes?

Evolution of a Buffalo Logo

Recently, we announced that Billy Casper Golf (BCG) is in the midst of a brand “modernization” project– rethinking everything including positioning, architecture and look and feel. In the coming weeks, I will provide detail on all elements of this project but today let's start with the end in mind - the logo itself.  

This is a bit out of order, as it is impossible to build a meaningful logo without first understanding a brand’s position and strategy. However, people (including our 6,000 employees) are interested and eager to hear about the new marks so we might as well address the fun stuff first!

There is a lot of discussion in marketing circles about the importance of logos in a brand strategy. What should a logo do? What shouldn’t it do? My personal belief is positioning is the most important aspect of an overall brand and the logo is the visual manifestation of that position. I could rehash the merits of each side of the debate, but Olivia Roat of Mainstreethost.com summarizes it nicely in her post found HERE.

(NOTE: Mainstreethost.com is a great daily read for marketers, BTW.)

Ms. Roat concludes the following:

#1 – A LOGO DOES NOT DEFINE A BUSINESS
The best logos represent the business but in most cases don’t literally explain the business. Think about the most iconic logos – Apple, Nike, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook. These logos connect to a deeper essence and brand without literally depicting what the represented company does. Nike’s logo is a swoosh, not a shoe. Apple’s brand is literally an apple but it symbolizes a quest for higher learning and knowledge, not computing devices or smart phones.

BCG founders Peter Hill and Bob Morris recognized this when they started the firm 25 years ago. Rather than choosing a literal golf icon (flag, ball, course graphic, etc), they smartly chose a buffalo paying homage to the firm’s namesake, Billy Casper. The backstory behind the buffalo goes like this:

“At times during his legendary career, Billy Casper battled fluctuating weight and food allergies. To combat these conditions, he went on a strict diet of exotic meats, including caribou, elk, hippopotamus and, primarily, buffalo. Coinciding with this regimen, from 1964 to 1970, Billy won 27 U.S. events, six more than Arnold Palmer and Gary Player combined, and two more than Jack Nicklaus. Media dubbed him “Buffalo Bill” and, from there, Billy Casper Golf’s buffalo icon was born.”

# 2 - A GOOD LOGO WON’T MAKE A BRAND
This may seem obvious but it gets overlooked in far too many brand projects. The punchline is that the underlying product or service that the logo represents is far more important than the mark itself. Roat continues:

“Logos are important, but they’re not the whole picture. Brands can’t live on design alone…What [a brand] means is more important than how it looks. Brands are composed of more than a cool, clever emblem: they’re made up of employees, the services they provide, the products they sell.”

In the post on modernization, I discussed that BCG is obsessive about building a platform to serve the needs of the ever-changing and ever-challenging golf industry. Yet the logo has remained unchanged in the nearly 25 years of the business. This is the extreme of the point above. Let the product define the brand, not the other way around. We are well defined by our passionate people, our unmatched ACE culture and our top notch course conditions. Not our logo, old or new.

#3 – A LOGO EMBODIES THE QUALITIES OF AN ORGANIZATION
In other words, a logo should reflect the key elements of a brand position. Our fundamental position for the BCG brand is that we are “the most powerful operating platform in golf”. This is a bold position but one that we constantly strive to achieve through investment in technology, innovation and a focus on our people. Supporting this position is a culture of customer service, data capture and analysis, and, as much as possible, fun! (yes, BCG is fun!) 

Billy Casper Golf's Buffalo Nickel Logo

Officially, BCG has had three logos in its history but the “buffalo nickel” version (shown to the right) has been the primary mark for 22 of the company’s 25 years.

There is a lot to like about this mark. It is clean, functional and not too literal. It has great utility in print and embroidery and it certainly avoids the do’s and don’ts of #1 and #2 above. However, when you consider it against the qualities of our organization and our ultimate position of power, innovation and energy, it comes up short. The logo simply doesn’t embody the full the essence of the brand platform that BCG continues to build.

So this is our challenge. We need a buffalo that is on the move, tech savvy, data-oriented and modern. And also fun. If you have spent much time looking at buffaloes (actually North American buffaloes are typically called bison but those are just details), you have probably noticed that, while powerful, buffaloes are not the most energetic-looking animals. In developing the now iconic Buffalo Bills logo, illustrator Stevens Wright referenced this exact challenge. (The story is documented HERE, well worth the read, regardless of your sports affiliations.)

In the next post, I will walk through our buffalo and brand explorations that led us to our new logo which will formally be released later this week.


Thank you for stopping by and check back often. Content on BillyCasperGolf.com and the Billy Casper Digital Network changes daily.

Until next time, stay Buffalo Strong.

@BillyCasperGolf
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