Sears, Roebuck and Co., known by its everyday name Sears, is a retailer of apparel, automotive and home products and related services in the the U.S. and Canada. Richard Sears began building his enterprise in 1886 when he took possession of a shipment of gold watches and resold them at profit. He soon after moved his newfound business to Chicago and partnered with Alvah C. Roebuck. Together they built a mail-order business that expanded from watches and jewelry to sell everything imaginable. At present, Sears is a broadline retailer with over 2,300 store locations and interestingly is the largest provider of home services in America (over 12 million service calls a year).
Over recent years, Sears has used a number of different variations of their primary wordmark. The current swooshed version is being used widely across Sears’s brick-and-mortar stores and marketing materials. Technically, the logo with the swoosh took over in 2004 for the all-caps version of the Sears wordmark, which entered into use in 1984 (replacing a simple serifed face setting). However the ’84 wordmark never went away entirely, as it is still possible to find it in use (I’ve recently seen a couple of applications across environmental store signage). Today we have yet another Sears wordmark to introduce to the mix. At present, the new wordmark is to be used across the web, digital marketing materials, and some TV spots, leaving the previous wordmark(s!) to exist in retail applications and on physical collateral.
There is nothing particularly appealing or genius about the previous wordmarks — and we’ll avoid any specific rants here as we’re all aware of the perils of the “swoosh,” However, there is equity in them as their widespread usage has made them recognizable. While different, these two previous marks shared a consistent approach to the typographic style present in the word “Sears.” This new mark is a cliche of what not to rely on for visual distinction: a horrible gradient application, a gimmicky shadow, and poor kerning of a typeface with a tall x-height helping the word “sars” to emerge. All of this before even acknowledging the fact that we now have a third mark in the present-day Sears branding… and this one is definitely the milkman’s child.
Say what you will about logos not being key anymore (can’t say I agree with that rationale, perhaps a discussion for another time, like a Brand New conference maybe?), there is a vital purpose that they serve in the presentation of, and interaction with, a brand. Whether we’re talking about visual consistency, recognition or brand association. Sears, seriously, what is going on over there!?