Posted on 24 February 2021 by Jeff Fuge  |  Reading time 8–9 mins

A few years back, I noticed a number of businesses adding the likes of Since 1952 or Est. 2001 to their logos. Since then, every brand and his dog seems to have decided that displaying their ‘date of birth’ is the thing to do.

Rhino UK logo in 2016
The logo on my boot liner from 2016.
Rhino UK logo in 2017
The logo on my boot liner from 2017.
Morrisons logo from 2016
Trend-follower Morrisons added Est 1888 in 2016 as part of their new logo.
Halfords logo
Trend-follower Halfords’ date is the epitome of the awkward-looking add-on.
Spotty Dog logo in 2019
Est 2020 but spotted in 2019. A time-travelling example of a trend-follower.
Boom Sound logo in 2016
Boom Sound sticker in 2016. Poking fun at the trend.

The tactic is not an infallible one, however, as ye olde brands can be bought or resurrected. Tesco again provide a good example with their recent introduction of Stockwell & Co (Since 1924) to replace their Everyday Value product branding.

Tesco’s founder, Jack Cohen, created the Tesco brand further to buying a batch of tea from a T E Stockwell in 1924. (It’s said he took the TES from the tea brand and the CO from his own surname.) But Tesco have now dusted off the Stockwell brand, using the name and date to give products a friendly, traditional feel.

This kind of approach leads to brands that have the illusion of age and experience – and does so to the detriment of those that actually do. Worst of all, they take advantage of customers’ trust and ignorance.

When authenticity, antiquity or alignment can be gained by bending brand-birthday truths, people will become sceptical. And when adding a date of birth goes from being a point of positive difference to something everyone is doing, people really will start to switch off.

Time to move on

Tesco's Stockwell & Co logo
Tesco’s new-but-old T E Stockwell brand.

Five years after I first noticed the trend emerging, some brands are still blindly jumping on the bandwagon. But there are signs the approach is running out of steam, and that savvy brands are moving onwards and upwards.

Take Marks & Spencer as an example. M&S introduced their date of birth when their logo was updated in 2014. It has since appeared extensively, but in 2020 they began replacing it on their food packaging with the word Food.

Recent reports show that the food side of the M&S is doing OK, but the clothing side has been struggling. So the change may be a sign of the two sides of the business being moved further apart. My guess is that a significant repositioning of their clothing and home offer may be in the pipeline.

Come what may, M&S have been around for the best part of 150 years but shouting about it (in the food aisles, at least) seems to have only lasted for six.

M&S logo from 2014
M&S logo with Est 1884, introduced in 2014.
M&S Food logo from 2020
M&S Food logo, introduced in 2020.

2014 was also the year that environmentally friendly cleaning brand Ecover added Since 1979 to their logo. As can be the case with brands that have a forward-thinking aspect to their appearance or ethos, the inclusion of a date looked and felt awkward.

A visual rebrand in 2019 saw the date washed away. However, as befitting an eco-brand, the date wasn’t dumped but upcycled. It is now put to use in the lead sentence on the back of bottles and packs. Here it helps explain that Ecover have been on a mission for a cleaner clean since 1979.

And that provides some insight into where all of this is could be heading.

There can be merit in showing you’ve been around for donkey’s years. But it’s far more meaningful to focus on something engaging that has been present throughout that time.

Ecover label post 2014
Ecover logo with Since 1979, introduced in 2014.
Ecover label from 2020
Ecover logo, introduced in 2020.

Confectionery brand Terry’s Chocolate Orange pitch this sweetly with their notion of being Deliciously Unsquare Since 1932.

The quirky form of words makes the idea memorable, and cleverly provides scope for use on product variants such as bars and segments. It also feels like a concept with the breadth and campaignability that would allow the brand to stick with it for a long while.

Meanwhile, alcoholic-beverage business Diageo are advertising how their vodka brand Smirnoff has been Infamous Since 1864, and that their gin brand Tanquerary has an Unchanged Recipe Since 1830.

Sports shoe and clothing brand New Balance have been Fearlessly independent since 1906. The makers of Worcestershire sauce, Lea & Perrins have been Expert blenders since 1937. And cracker company Jacob’s say their products have been Simply baked since 1985.

Will these ideas become conceptual cornerstones of their respective brands over the long term? While they all work so much harder than quoting a date alone, some feel more meaningful than others.

Terry's Chocolate Orange
Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Consistently not square (and not always spherical either). Clever stuff.

And even with one I’d back to stand the test of time, Terry’s, I see they’ve omitted the date from their Deliciously Unsquare TV ads. A sign, perhaps, that their use of the date was still more about being part of a trend than something that will become a permanent tradition.

Still want to make a date?!

Adding your founding year to your logo is unlikely to make your brand the best of breed. And doing it now means you may just blend in at the back of the date-displaying pack.

People are switched on to the familar presence of brands’ dates of birth (albeit subconsciously in most instances) and may infer something positive from it. But people will switch off when dates are there for the sake of a trend or a trick and add nothing of note.

So, if you are going to dust off the date your brand got going and you want do something prominent with it, you will need to:

  • Make sure it’s an impressive age

    Note that ‘impressive’ is a relative term. If your company make clocks, impressive might be 200 years. If you run a restaurant in a trendy and competitive part of town, impressive could be 20.

  • Make sure it’s part of an inspiring idea

    Your concept needs an angle that sets it apart – and at the same time helps it connect with, compel and convince your audience. In other words, ensure that it’s an idea that both matters to you and really matters to them.

  • Make sure it’s all irrefutable

    Your start date – and what you say your brand has been or been doing since then – must be genuine and stand up to a spot of scrutiny. People will ultimately sniff out any fibs and falsehoods. (But probably not as quickly as our Golden Retriever could smell the muddy puddles that led me to buy those boot liners that triggered all of this!)

If you could do with a little Objective Ingenuity, let’s talk.

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