⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀With or without a claim: for more than 30 years, the company mark has mainly appeared in the color petrol against a white background. Nowadays, petrol is a fashionable color that represents elegance and profundity. When Siemens AG (SAG) opted for this color and came up with a newly designed company-name logo a few years later, it created a unique mark that also embodied the uniformity it had been striving for for decades. Nevertheless, alternatives to this mark were subsequently designed, tested in empirical studies and, in some cases, received higher ratings than the original design – which, however, was ultimately retained because it obviously represented Siemens’ corporate identity par excellence.
30 years of mark development in 30 seconds
Corporate image under pressure
In November 1981, “Siemens – a sleepy giant” was the headline in the German business magazine Manager Magazin. The first sentence of the title story was also the quintessence of the following status report: “Siemens’ reputation at risk of being tarnished.” The list of criticisms was long and included examples such as the lack of an optimal organization and future-proof program, technological stagnation in key sectors, proven weakness in innovation, bureaucratic rigidity and a deficient mindset.
Familiar response – Campaigns to improve the corporate image
The company's own findings in a corporate image analysis initiated in 1982 were better, but still anything but satisfactory. According to these findings, SAG was still a well-known, respected and trustworthy company, but from the point of view of respondents, it lacked, among other things, market and customer orientation, research expertise, quality awareness and delivery reliability. The internal summary did not gloss over the analysis results: since the analysis of public perception of 1974, not only had the company’s public image not improved, there had been a partial image loss.
In response to Manager Magazin’s critique, which was also reinforced by other media sources, the company launched a variety of public image campaigns. Rolled out in 1981, the “Leistung zählt – Siemens” (“Siemens – Performance counts”) campaign, which was developed in-house, kicked off these campaigns and presented concrete examples of SAG’s capabilities and power of innovation.
Globally protected, with a tendency to be weakened – The company mark
In 1982, SIEMENS became a protected company mark in around 120 countries. At that time, more than 90 companies used the Siemens company mark, and trademark license agreements had been concluded with around 40 of them. In addition to the company mark, around 800 product marks had been registered, for each of which there were around 18 parallel foreign marks. But what might have sounded impressive at first could very well lead in practice to a weakening of the company brand, as SAG’s top sales manager Hans-Gerd Neglein pointed out to the Managing Board in the same year. He saw this danger – among other things – in the existing dual names and dual marks at companies in which Siemens was a shareholder, in the multiple labeling of products, whereby both the company and the product mark were used, and in the use of the company mark for third-party products, which threatened to turn the manufacturer brand into a dealer brand.
It must be an essential element of Siemens corporate policy that its name, mark and image is cautiously handled, […] to ensure that SIEMENS remains a first-rate company in the future, too.Hans-Gerd Neglein, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG, 1982
About a year later – in the interest of improving the distinguishability of the company mark and company name – it was decreed that the company mark would consistently be capitalized, while the company names of all companies with “Siemens” in their name and all companies in which Siemens held a majority stake would be written in upper and lower case.
Despite the plea for a stronger focus on the SIEMENS company mark, Hans-Gerd Neglein rejected the ideal of “having all activities sail under the company’s flag.” Legally independent companies such as Kraftwerk Union and Transformatoren Union, which at that time were again wholly owned by Siemens, were to continue to operate under their own names and marks.
Small but significant change – Moving toward the color petrol
A further image analysis in 1984, whose results did not fundamentally differ from those of the analysis of 1982, led finally to an overhaul of SAG’s visual image. For example, the company mark was positioned in a defined context, making it more autonomous.
The new primary color for SAG’s colored brand identity was now a technical, no-nonsense blue. This color was intended to give the mark brilliance and greater perceptibility. The company mark could also appear in black and white.
Just one year later, for advertising purposes it was already permitted to use the company mark in the color petrol – which at that time was still called “blue-green.” With the initially on and off and finally fundamental turn towards petrol, the company remained, on the one hand, kept to the comparatively young tradition of using a color from the field of blue tones for the company brand. On the other hand, by using the color petrol, Siemens distinguished itself from competitors, such as IBM, which also relied on blue for the company brand.
For and against – Mark alternatives discussed
In the spring of 1989, against the background of the planned company reorganization, the Managing Board commissioned the company’s advertising and design managers to review the guidelines for the use of the company mark and company name that had been in effect since 1979. The new guidelines adopted six months later explicitly emphasized that the Siemens name and the SIEMENS company mark were “intangible assets of the highest value” and that “maintaining a uniform public image [...] was therefore of particular importance.” This accentuation represented a clear shift in the philosophy behind the company mark and company name. It was also stipulated for the first time that in the future only one company in each country – usually the local Siemens Regional Company – was to bear the Siemens name and that the use of dual names, which had been tolerated in the past, would no longer be permitted.
The company’s reorganization, but also the change in its product range – due, above all, to the growing importance of microelectronics – were reasons to question the company mark’s graphic design. It was obvious: the Siemens logo, established in the mid-1930s by advertising expert Hans Domizlaff, was outdated. In addition, since the typography of the Siemens logo resembled “standard lettering from the typecase” that were easy to copy, it was becoming more difficult to protect the logo under trademark law. Given these findings, SAG commissioned external designers to create the initial designs for a contemporary and distinctive company mark.
Some designers strongly advocated adding a small symbol or mark to the Siemens logo. However, this suggestion was not favored by the advertising experts at SAG. They were supported in their view by psychologist Reinhold Bergler, who had analyzed several alternatives for the company mark in leading psychological studies in the early 1970s. In his most recent report, he emphasized that no additional symbol or mark could match the communicative effectiveness of the founder’s and the Siemens family’s name as the company mark.
Siemens does [...] not tolerate abbreviations of any kind; its physiognomy and character are expressed exclusively in a written-out family name. This name is the central graphic constant of the company's identity.Reinhold Bergler, 1989
Maintaining continuity – Graphic development of the company mark
For the psychologist, the only proposal for the future company mark that came into question was that of the renowned graphic and poster designer Pierre Mendell. Reinhold Bergler attested to the design’s ability to maintain mark continuity while optimizing and raising the profile of the logo, which stood for values such as authority, expertise, integrity, technological commitment and trustworthiness, dynamism and determination.
Although, in his opinion, the typeface form was neither original nor capable of evoking associations such as innovative strength, flexibility, market adaptation, future and customer orientation, the design “corresponded most closely to the requirements of the Siemens [...] company mark.”
SAG also preferred Pierre Mendell’s draft design, which, according to the company, signified the intelligence and dynamism of the electronic age. Petrol was now the obligatory leading color, and it was only in precisely defined and exceptional cases that the company mark was also permitted in black or white. The original shape and typography color were protected worldwide, and changes to it were prohibited.
Put to the test again – Company mark and alternatives
To mark its 150th anniversary in 1997, SAG launched a company-wide advertising campaign under the motto “Siemens. Die Kraft des Neuen” (“Siemens. The strength of the new”). This campaign had one goal: “We intend” – one is tempted to add: “finally” – “to shake off the ‘sleepy giant’ image – a company that takes too long to turn good ideas into marketable products.” The advertising campaign could be regarded as the prelude to a fundamental image correction in the course of which the design of the company mark would come up for discussion again.
In 1998/1999, an independent opinion research institute conducted two empirical studies in and outside Germany as well as among Siemens employees at different locations to determine the acceptance of the current company mark. In each study, the mark was compared to two alternatives.
In the first study, the country comparison, Pierre Mendell’s company mark came in last. The participants liked the logo with the curved underline much better – this logo was seen as modern, appealing and lively. They also liked the white logo against the defined petrol background much better because of the clear color contrast.
However, the study conducted with Siemens employees painted a different picture: 43 percent liked the current company mark best; 42 percent preferred the logo with the curved underline in petrol. But judging how the logo looked was just one side of the coin; the other was the well-founded decision as to which of the logos the company should use: in this regard, just under half the study participants voted for the current company mark.
While in the first study the mark alternatives left Pierre Mendell’s logo typography untouched, they departed from it in the second study. But that wasn’t all: surprisingly, the mark alternatives featured exactly what had been shelved ten years earlier – an additional symbol. However, these designs were not convincing. All in all, the current company mark performed best. A total of 48 percent of the study participants preferred Pierre Mendell’s design, and as many as 64 percent believed that this mark suited Siemens best.
Ongoing discussion – The company’s image and the company mark
At the end of 1999, the newly established Corporate Brand & Design (UK CB) department at Siemens Corporate Communications submitted a report entitled “Remaking the Brand.” In addition to taking stock of the brand identity, this report presented a “fitness program for revitalizing and reorganizing” the company mark.
It‘s our aim to make Siemens a fascinating, extraordinary global brand again.Peter W. Hartmann, Head of Corporate Brand & Design, 1999
The report’s findings were again sobering: Siemens’ public image had become “somewhat scratched” and “presented an only slightly attractive ‘gray planet’.” Moreover, the company mark was “in an identity crisis” both internally and externally. One reason was that symbols and marks had been added to the company name and mark for the individual divisions as had word and picture marks for products, services and joint ventures. The divisions’ various advertising slogans were also helping erode the company mark. In UK CB’s opinion, “the public perception of Siemens was becoming vaguer and vaguer from month to month.” Overall, there was a strong impression that the “branding chaos of the Protos era,” which had been massively criticized by advertising expert Hans Domizlaff in the mid-1930s, had returned.
Breaking new ground – New mark identity and new mark image
The “fitness program” included managing the mark in the future not just through its form, but primarily through its content and values. For this purpose, the status of the mark was analyzed in and outside Germany. This status – together with Siemens’ corporate strategy – provided the basis for a new brand identity, the core of which included the statement that Siemens saw itself as the architect of a modern, global society.
Although UK CB’s report had questioned whether the current brand color adequately reflected the company’s character and had thus considered a color change necessary, petrol remained the primary color.
The new brand identity also included a new house typeface, which had been developed especially for the company by Swiss typographer Hans-Jurg Hunziger. Still in use today, this typeface forged an identity within the globally operating SAG that was easily readable in all media and served as a brand signature and an expression of the brand character.
The brand identity was finally complimented by an acoustic logo, which was first heard at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on January 23, 2003.
Four years later, the company dropped its “Global Network of Innovation” mark claim silently and without further debate – a step that was probably linked to the compliance crisis, which once again massively damaged the public image of SAG.
In 2001, the company mark was supplemented by the brand claim “Global Network of Innovation,” which concisely summed up the company’s message and united SAG’s various fields of activity and business areas. The use of additional symbols and slogans by individual divisions, which had been customary in the past, was no longer permitted.
When designing the typeface, I started with classical typefaces that were created at the end of the 18th century, in other words in the era of the Enlightenment, which was also the beginning of modern science and industry. I felt that the typeface [...] should have a subtle and inner relationship with technology.Hans-Jurg Hunziger, 2008
New self-image – Ingenuity for life
The 200th birthday of Siemens founder Werner von Siemens provided an occasion to give the company brand a new claim: “Ingenuity for life.” The new brand identity was officially presented at the 50th ordinary Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on January 26, 2016. In the fall of 2016, the claim was launched in Germany and subsequently rolled out worldwide. “Ingenuity for life” expressed the company’s aspiration and self-understanding as a creator of value for customers, employees and society through engineering and innovation. And it stood for the company’s mission to make real what matters.
Werner von Siemens spoke about ‘ingenuity’ that had to be used for the benefit of mankind. He spoke of the ‘interest of the whole’ as a ‘higher law’. We’ve expressed serving the interests of the whole, in other words, society, in three words: ‘Ingenuity for life’.Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG from 2013 to 2021
Since 2017, the integrated mark identity has also included a new, unmistakable Siemens brand sound, which makes the content of the brand claim acoustically tangible.
The “Ingenuity for life” claim is long since history. Following the public listings of Siemens Healthineers and Siemens Energy, SAG – with its focus on the digital transformation of industry, infrastructure and mobility – opened a new chapter in its brand identity in 2020. The SIEMENS company mark in the form designed by Pierre Mendell and in the colour petrol still remains in use at the company more than thirty years after its introduction.
After completing several semesters at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel, Pierre Mendell (1929–2008) worked for a renowned graphic designer. In 1961, he set up the Mendell & Oberer studio with Swiss graphic designer and photographer Klaus Oberer, which then led to the Pierre Mendell Design Studio in 2000. He achieved national recognition through his poster designs for Die Neue Sammlung – the largest design collection in the world – and for the Bavarian State Opera. He received numerous awards for his work in the areas of poster design, corporate design, and book and packaging design.
People often ask me about the philosophy behind my work. And I always answer that I don’t have one. [...] I try to approach the subject pragmatically, as close to the content as possible.Pierre Mendell, 2001