⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀1966 was a turning point in the history of the company’s marks, which reaches all the way back to 1897 and the design of a trademark for Siemens & Halske AG. As legally independent subsidiaries arose over the decades since, they had used their own company marks, each individually designed with little concern for homogeneity. Over time a kind of “branding chaos” developed. Later, the attempt to standardize designs produced a sprawling “branding cosmos” that could scarcely be grasped. The founding of Siemens AG offered an occasion to establish a new company mark that was not all that new – at least in formal terms – but as a fresh reinterpretation of a traditional symbol. At this point in time, no one had any idea that the new company trademark would prove to be an interim solution.
Time lapse: Development of the Siemens company mark from 1966 to 1973
Siemens AG is founded – A new chapter in the history of the company’s marks
October 1, 1966, is a date that stands out in the history of this venerable electrical equipment company: On that day Siemens AG (SAG) was formed by merging three stock corporations: Siemens & Halske (communications engineering), Siemens-Schuckertwerke (power engineering) and Siemens-Reiniger-Werke (medical technology).
Combining our parent companies into a single unit realizes the long-cherished idea of safeguarding coherence and continuity in the company’s management.Ernst von Siemens, 1966
The founding of SAG went together with a new mark for the company. The three company marks that until then had applied both domestically and internationally were replaced by a single higher-level mark to represent the new company – an “umbrella” mark. But this umbrella mark was not a new creation; it was one of the company marks that advertising expert Hans Domizlaff had designed for the individual Siemens companies in the mid-1930s, and that had survived until 1966 and in some cases even beyond.
All these company marks had the common trait of an isolated monogram that appeared above the separate SIEMENS word mark, and was made up essentially of the letter “S” for Siemens, together with a second letter arranged on that “S” to indicate specifically which Siemens company was intended. At this point the company mark of the former Siemens & Halske AG was promoted to the umbrella mark of SAG, with the S&H monogram now being interpreted as meaning the “House of Siemens.”
Surprisingly, it was none other than Hans Domizlaff who could not make his peace with the company’s new trademark policy. He was still serving as an outside advertising consultant for Siemens and had been repeatedly advocating the introduction of an umbrella mark since the 1930s. Yet now he emphatically argued for keeping the three SAG forerunner companies’ separate monograms. He felt the letter combinations were an indispensable stylistic component.
You can’t resort to using SH as a unified initialism and claim its traditional meaning has been redefined as ‘House of Siemens’ – it won’t wash.Hans Domizlaff, ca. 1965
The monograms – especially the S&H monogram – still had a specific meaning. This was confirmed in empirical studies by psychologist and sociologist Reinhold Bergler, who had been working with the company since the late 1950s. In 1966 he found that his test subjects identified the various letter combinations primarily as individual company marks and did not couple the monogram with a company name.
Strictly defined – Applications for the company mark and company name
In 1966 it was decided that all SAG products and advertising would have to bear the company mark. The SIEMENS word mark, for its part, would be used on buildings, exhibition booths, direction signage, labeling, control panels and cabinets, rating plates and type plates, cable drums, shipping crates and uniforms. If miniaturized products were too small for the smallest version of either the company mark or the word mark, the monogram could be used by itself. The size and arrangement of the company mark, company name and company identification were standardized for a vast range of applications.
As part of the company’s reorganization as of October 1, 1969, the appearance of the SIEMENS AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT company name, which had been firmly enforced since the umbrella mark was introduced, was supplemented with a “commercially designed form” that was internally also known as the “styled company name.”
The “styled company name” would now replace the company name on invoices, preprinted forms for drawings, parts lists and standards sheets, on company signage and – explicitly in blue – on letterhead paper and envelopes for external correspondence. At the same time the regular company name was also coming to be replaced where the “styled company name” was normally not supposed appear, for instance on preprinted forms for internal use.
Lots of variants – The subsidiaries’ company marksThe legally independent Siemens companies based in Germany responded to the introduction of the umbrella mark for SAG in a variety of ways. Siemens-Electrogeräte AG (SE AG), founded in 1957, retained its company mark: the Siemens word mark with the SE monogram above it. On the other hand, a new company mark was designed for Siemens-Bauunion GmbH (SBU). What’s remarkable about this mark is that for the first time, Siemens made use of a stylized symbol to illustrate a company’s line of business. And that was by no means an exception. Symbols were also used for the company marks of the subsidiaries Kraftwerk-Union AG (KWU) and Transformatoren-Union AG (TU), both of which were founded in 1969 with Siemens and AEG-Telefunken each owning 50 percent. But unlike the SBU mark, these symbols were so abstract that only initiates recognized what they represented.
SAG’s first domestic corporate image advertising campaign – “das ist Siemens”
SAG launched its first domestic corporate advertising campaign in 1969, with the slogan “das ist Siemens” ("this is Siemens"). There was a prior history to the campaign. Back in the early 1960s, the company had engaged Reinhold Bergler to conduct an empirical analysis of responses to Siemens’ performance, conduct and image among customers, professionals, and the general public. Some of the study’s results remained far below expectations. The Managing Board and the executives in charge of advertising sat up and took notice.
We’re in the position […] of somebody who is taking a very critical look at themselves in the mirror for the first time.Gerd Tacke, 1964
The company was confronted with the realization that people did not associate it solely with positive values like top quality, pioneering achievement, worldwide standing, respectability, trustworthiness, tradition and stability. It was also lumbered with the image of being an incomprehensibly complex “mammoth corporation” and a “starched-collar firm”: conservative, bureaucratic, old-fashioned, stodgy, reluctant to take risks, and too little focused on the future.
In retrospect, we can see that the image correction, which had been considered imperative in view of the negative findings, was shunted into the background by the preparations for founding SAG. Corporate advertising campaigns like “das ist Siemens,” portraying the company as modern, innovative, and dynamic, did not start to be rolled out, on a selective basis, until 1969.
A company mark put to the test – Searching for alternatives
Four years after the SAG company mark was introduced, it had earned high recall in Germany, and was also protected as a trademark in almost every country. Yet it came increasingly under fire from critics. It was considered outdated, seemed “often optically undervalued” in comparison to competitors’ marks, was hard to recognize in small font sizes, and was easily confused with the mark of SE AG. On top of that, in some countries it was burdened with a perceived affinity with fascist symbolism. In practice, as already had been the case in the past, these problems led to an inconsistent brand appearance. That was in part because the company mark was not used consistently as a manufacturer’s symbol; in some cases it was replaced merely by the monogram or the company name. In others, introducing the “styled company name” in applications that were meant to be particularly impressive caused the impact of the company mark to be unintentionally diluted.
Calls to revise the company mark grew ever louder in this situation, leading to the establishment of a “Company Mark Task Force.” In the spring of 1970, this group presented several proposed designs for the company’s future mark appearance, all of which used contemporary fonts and eliminated the monogram. The in-house favorite for the new company mark was the company name combined with an accentuated dot on the letter “i,” which had even appeared already in an advertising campaign.
Recourse to research – A comparison of potential company marks
In its quest for the company mark of the future, SAG commissioned two pilot psychological studies from Reinhold Bergler in the early 1970s, intended to assess the aesthetic and functional impact of eight variants of the company-name logo along with the current company mark and the “styled company name.”
The studies yielded a clear result: the “styled company name” got the best ratings. But the test subjects’ verdict was in direct contradiction with the opinion of the advertising managers, who felt this version had design deficiencies. The company mark was in second place – although with a serious restriction that had not appeared at all in Roland Bergler’s first company mark study back in 1966: most of the study participants felt the monogram was antiquated and distracting, and on top of that, they continued to read it as “Siemens & Halske,” as before, rather than the “House of Siemens.”
It does not represent a symbol in the strict sense, nor does it enhance the weight of the SIEMENS name, which cannot be omitted even if the ‘company symbol’ is retained.Reinhold Bergler, 1972
The test subjects rejected all the other versions of the logo as inappropriate or unsuitable. They experienced the advertising managers’ favorite – the Siemens logo with the conspicuous dot over the “i” – as, among other defects, poorly legible, faddish, and facetious, and in some cases even as ridiculous and unworthy.
Realized at last – The company name becomes the company mark
Reinhold Bergler’s analysis and assessment of the results of the study tolled the death-knell for the monogram, after a career of more than seventy years. Instead, something was decided that had already been suggested repeatedly in the 1920s and 1930s – to focus on the SIEMENS name.
In February 1973, the Corporate Executive Committee of SAG approved a motion to change the former trademark. On October 1 of that year, the new company mark was introduced, composed solely of the SIEMENS name, using the same typography as before. The advertising managers felt that the new company mark stood out for its “concentration on the essentials.” Unlike the company mark of 1966, it had “a sense of modernity and technical sophistication, makes a timeless impression, inspires trust and preserves continuity.” For the world at large, it was the “bracket” that grouped a differentiated, diverse range of products and services together.
The new company mark, an umbrella mark like its predecessor, was to appear on all products and advertising from all companies, domestic and international, in which SAG directly or indirectly held more than 50 percent of the capital. The rules from 1966 for using a license notice and applying the mark on third party products were retained. The “styled company name” was no longer to be used.
New principles – Company mark to be used only in tandem with quality warranty
In 1976, SAG signed a brand license agreement with SE AG that ensured that the consumer goods maker would use the company mark in compliance with the guidelines that applied to SAG. The new version of the contract signed in August 1978 included a pioneering modification: the company mark could be used only for products that conformed to Siemens standards in both technical quality and design. SAG made the same criterion a fundamental requirement in a circular two months later:
The SIEMENS name and the company mark enjoy a high standing all over the world as a guarantee of quality and technical excellence. It is therefore especially important to protect it against abuses.Z Circular, 1978
Reinhold Bergler (1929–2017) studied psychology, sociology and education at the university of Erlangen from 1948 to 1952. He received his Dr. phil. degree there in 1954 and qualified to teach in 1960. In 1957 he was one of the founders of the „arbeitsgruppe für psychologische marktanalysen“ (“Task force for Psychological Market Analysis”) – Psyma – in Nuremberg. Three years later, in the same city, he founded the Institute of the Foundation for Empirical Social Research. From 1969 until taking emeritus status in 1994 he was the Professor of Social, Occupational and Organizational Psychology at the Rheinish Friedrich-Wilhelm University in Bonn. Bergler headed several emperical studies of image analyses commissioned by Siemens between 1961 and 1991 whose results have particularly influenced the company’s corporate advertising.