⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀In the mid-1930s, the company began working with advertising expert Hans Domizlaff. Within a few years he had established what became known as the “Siemens Style,” presenting the public with a consistent, unmistakable look for the company. The core feature was the house mark, which remained in use for three decades in the form Domizlaff had designed.
Criticized by the expert – S&H and SSW product advertisements
Domizlaff also noted “a colossal splintering of the Siemens name into small and even smaller production objectives, with types of goods that run entirely independently from one another,” so that an outside observer tended to get the impression of dealing with a fabricating department store rather than an industrial corporation. He also pointed out that the Siemens name was not well established in the public’s awareness:
Outside the company people talked about Siemens & Halske, Siemens-Schuckert, Protos, etc., but not about ‘Siemens’ and especially not about Siemens as an inventor and maker of desirable goods.Hans Domizlaff, 1939
Putting expert knowledge into action – Establishing the Siemens Style
Domizlaff was appointed outside advertising consultant to the Managing Board in February 1934. Within a few years he was able to establish the Siemens Style within the company – whose first commandment was unity of style, “which applies to everything stamped with the Siemens name.” The focus on the Siemens name was not an original idea. But what was new was that Domizlaff developed a design concept and put it into practice; its aesthetic components were to reflect, in their own way, the achievements, personality and quality standards of the company founder.
The core component of the Siemens Style was the house mark. Domizlaff freed it from the graphical features of the pentagon and circle, and aligned the type font of the Siemens logo with the sleek design of the monograms. But in fact Domizlaff was unimpressed by them, since those monograms were so similar that they could easily be confused. Retaining them in their traditional form undoubtedly represented a compromise for him. He also took a middle path with the double mark, setting aside his often-voiced principle that a company should have just one mark, and that two marks meant two companies. For the future, the advertising expert argued for setting up an umbrella brand, but for reasons of corporate policy and business law, that was impossible for the moment.
An application for the revised house marks was filed with the Reich Patent Office on July 5, 1936; the registration is dated October 2 of the same year. The “branding chaos of the Protos era” was now a thing of the past, but not without leaving a bitter aftertaste: not even Hans Domizlaff could get the company to abandon the PROTOS word mark itself. The mark would survive in use until 1940.
The application, form, size and placement of house marks were subject to strict rules; for coloring, the only requirement was, that the color should be coordinated with the colors of the item the mark was applied or printed on.
Thanks to Hans Domizlaff, the mark usage of the two parent companies and their legally independent subsidiaries was finally standardized. You might think of it as a “cosmos” of house marks – the two parent companies at the center, which had not only their own individual marks but a double, combined mark; and revolving around them, the legally independent subsidiaries and their individual marks.
Another component of the Siemens Style was indirect corporate advertising, which was significantly slower to penetrate and dominate a market, but much more lasting. The advertising design initiated by Hans Domizlaff conveyed corporate values like reliability, trustworthiness, performance, integrity, refinement and dignity. Instead of a continued advertising style criticized as "amusement park style" by Domizlaff, serious, objective, to-the-point-announcements, explanations, descriptions and communications took its place, all of these characterized by an air of self-confidence.
Introducing the Siemens Style was anything but a frictionless process, and went hand in hand with extremely sharp debate, both within the Managing Board and between the board and the consultant. But ultimately the consultant’s efforts prevailed:
We are proud to have found a style that has aroused widespread attention and has apparently also been noticed by our competitors, who have not hesitated to imitate its manner and presentation.Wilhelm Backlo, 1938
Trust is good, control is better – The Siemens Style becomes obligatory
In January 1935, the two parent companies set up a Central Advertising Office (abbreviated HWS) that was in charge of such matters as defining a style and monitoring the style of all advertising, as well as advising all departments on matters of market psychology, brand technology and sales support. Three years later, on June 30, 1937, a Central Advertising Department (HWA) was established. For the first time in its history, the company thus had a central department for both market and corporate communications. The Central Advertising Department was officially reestablished on October 1, 1949. It again served as the controlling body for the meticulous maintenance of the Siemens Style, which beyond question was now to be applied throughout. Since 1953 the department’s duties have also included market and advertising research.
As the 1930s drew to a close, the Siemens sales organization covered the whole world, and promotions used a wide range of languages as a result. Consistency in advertising was also aimed for here, but was limited by the various cultural conventions and artistic traditions involved. Since the Central Advertising Department could not always be sure of staying on target for different countries’ tastes, every fair-sized Siemens office abroad had its own advertising department that dealt with designing prospectuses, posters and ads, and took specific customer needs into account.
Mining the alphabet further – Introducing the SE and SL marks
The revitalization of international business that was intently pursued in subsequent years had consequences for brand policy and brand architecture. In January 1956, the Managing Boards of S&H and SSW agreed to introduce a house mark for companies abroad that would differ from the existing house marks, yet also symbolize membership in the “house of Siemens.” The mark, introduced half a year later, consisted of the monogram SE for SIEMENS EXTERNA, the company name, and a geographic identifier.
But just a year later, the SE mark was again up for negotiation. It was Hans Domizlaff, who had once again been serving the company as an advertising consultant since the early 1950s, who reclaimed the SE monogram for Siemens-Electrogeräte AG (SE AG), which had been founded on October 1. The new company, which combined S&H’s radio and television business with SSW’s home and kitchen appliance business, was initially supposed to get an “SG” monogram. But by the time of the official founding, Domizlaff was able to get his wish for the “E,” representing “Electricity.” The SE mark was introduced in September 1957. The founding of SE AG furthermore achieved something that the advertising consultant had already been suggesting 20 years before – to sever the consumer goods business from the capital goods business.
In December 1957, the SL monogram, for SIEMENS LIZENZ, was introduced ad hoc as the house mark for international firms. From 1973 on, the SL mark applied only for the locally oriented plants known as “Landesfabriken.” But the plants for the world market that complied with German standards were allowed to use the S&H and SSW house marks.
In 1949 the company began gradually buying back the name and mark rights that had been confiscated abroad. In March 1952, for the first time after World War II, the company defined mandatory rules for using the SIEMENS name and brand. The aim was that the name, the brand and the monograms would generally be used only by domestic Siemens companies that belonged to the “house of Siemens.” Newly founded domestic and international companies, on the other hand, were not allowed to include the Siemens name in their corporate nomenclature, or to use the house mark.
Getting on in years – “Unity of Style” acquires some cracks
As the 1960s began, it became evident that the traditional Siemens Style was running up against its limits. This was especially clear with corporate advertising, whose predominantly technical and objective character threatened to calcify its development. Those in charge certainly did not deny that advertising for a company like Siemens had to primarily emphasize characteristics like technical precision, consistent quality and absolute reliability. But they felt it was absolutely necessary to take a more flexible approach in handling the design elements that had been introduced decades before, so as to make them more lively and dynamic.
We have taken over a certain style from our forefathers, we’ve evolved it, refined it, and varied it. I don’t think a style has eternal value. We face the task of gradually creating something new.Gerd Tacke, 1960
Brand architecture in practice – An urgent need for action
Late in the 1950s, brand architecture brought forth some strange fruit in both theory and practice. In 1957, for instance, there were thoughts of creating an additional mark for those cases where all Siemens companies appeared together. The initials SU were reserved, probably standing for SIEMENS UNTERNEHMEN (“Siemens Companies”).
Since Hans Domizlaff’s time, the rule was that every product should bear only one house mark. In view of the Siemens companies’ growing number of joint projects, from January 1960 it became permissible to apply multiple house marks on products or systems, as proof of origin. But this concession went along with a restriction – they should be applied in such a way that only one house mark at a time was visible. The Siemens companies solved this problem by doing leaving their house marks off entirely – as the Company Advertising Department had to allow in 1964 – and instead applying only the company name (SIEMENS, with no monogram). The in-house call for a uniform house mark could no longer be ignored.
Finally, in the fall of 1965, as Siemens AG was founded, the decision was made to abandon the existing house marks and the international mark in favor of an umbrella mark. By that point the process of recovering name and mark rights in other countries had largely been completed.
Hans Domizlaff (May 9, 1892 – September 5, 1971) began his career as a painter, stage designer and stage director in Leipzig. His meeting with Philipp F. Reemtsma in 1921 was of life-altering significance, because he immediately started working as an advertising consultant – not just for the Reemtsma cigarette factory, but also for such businesses as the Ullstein Verlag publishing house, the Söhnlein Rheingold AG winery, the Norddeutsche Lloyd shipping firm, and Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. Domizlaff worked in a similar capacity for Siemens for almost 30 years, apart from an interruption because of the war.
In 1939 he summarized his thoughts on brand theory and experiences in advertising practice in a book called Die Gewinnung öffentlichen Vertrauens. Ein Lehrbuch der Markentechnik (“Earning Public Trust. A Textbook of Brand Technology”). Dankwart Rost, long-standing head of the Corporate Advertising and Design Unit at Siemens AG, emphasizes that this book has become a classic in the profession: “Anybody who wants to study the significance of long-term brand strategies and the rules for their communication can’t get around Domizlaff’s Markentechnik.”