Popular Logos: T...Few things are more tied to a company’s identity than its logo. Who isn’t familiar with Nike’s swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches? A good logo helps consumers recognize brands instantly and distinguishes brands from the competition.
For these reasons some corporate logos have remained — at their core — almost the same for more than a century. Originating in 1876, John Deere is currently the oldest corporate logo used still today by one of America’s largest companies. Several other logos 24/7 Wall St. identified have been around since the second half of the 19th century.
The 10 oldest corporate logos still in use today mostly belong to household name companies. With the exception of Union Pacific, a railroad company, these companies all make successful products for the American consumer. At least partly the result of their logos, consumers have personal histories with products made by Coca-Cola, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.
Following its founding as an explosives maker in 1802, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (NYSE: DD) went on to create a monopoly on gunpowder manufacturing in its first hundred years of existence. Today, DuPont products include Kevlar, a fiber often used in body armor, and Teflon, which is often used to coat cookware to prevent food from sticking. The original logo design included a ribbon entwined among the letters and the words “Established 1802.” According to the company, these elements were not practical when stenciling the logo onto products and were phased out over time. The company’s signature oval design was introduced in 1907. Before 1948, the dimensions of oval were not standardized, which led to numerous variations.
The Sherwin-Williams “Cover the Earth” logo, with a can of paint spilling over the planet, was created in the 1890s by George Ford, who headed the company’s advertising. Although there were initial misgivings about the design, general manager Walter Cottingham believed it was a bold depiction for the fast-growing company. By 1905, “Cover the Earth” had replaced a chameleon as the company’s official logo. Today, Sherwin-Williams Co. (NYSE: SHW) is the largest manufacturer of paint and coating in the nation. The company’s revenue of $9.5 billion in 2012 put it among the 300 largest publicly traded companies in the United States in terms of revenue.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (NASDAQ: GT) was founded in 1898 by Frank Seiberling, who named the company after Charles Goodyear — the man who had discovered vulcanization (the process of improving rubber by heating it with sulfur). The company made both bicycle and car tires, and by 1916 it was the world’s largest tire company. In 1900, the company sought to distinguish itself by adopting the wingfoot symbol as its logo. The idea came from a statute of the Roman god Mercury — which had winged feet — that Seiberling had in his home. The first advertisement featuring the wingfoot appeared in 1901. The company has also become famous for the Goodyear Blimps. It has operated such blimps since 1925, and it currently has blimps in California, Ohio, Florida and China.
General Electric Co.’s (NYSE: GE) trademark was first registered in 1900 as a monogram with the letters GE inside a gray circle. The iconic font of the monogram’s letters was first used in 1892 when the Edison General Electric Company and Thomson-Houston Company were merged. Today, GE is one of the most recognized brands worldwide, selling everything from financial services to light bulbs to airplane engines. Interbrand ranked GE the sixth most valuable brand in the world in 2012, with an estimated value of more than $43 billion. Today, the majority of the company’s revenue comes from outside the United States.
Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) was founded in 1869 by Joseph Campbell and Abraham Anderson, who later left the company. The first label put on a can of Campbell Soup in 1897 was actually orange and blue. By then, Campbell had retired, though his name stayed with the company. The colors were changed to red and white in 1898 after a company official saw the color scheme of Cornell’s football team and proposed the change. The company added the word “soup” to its official name only in 1922, and the company began publicly trading in 1954. The iconography of the company’s logo and label were immortalized in a series of paintings by Andy Warhol in 1962.
Prudential used the “Rock of Gibraltar” logo for the first time in 1896 in an advertisement with Leslie’s Weekly. Under the logo the ad said, “The Prudential has the strength of Gibraltar.” The company was initially founded as Prudential Friendly Society in 1876 by John Fairfield Dryden, an insurance agent. Today, Prudential Financial Inc. (NYSE: PRU) offers both individuals and institutions a wide variety of financial products, such as annuities, life insurance and wealth management. The company was ranked 29th on the Fortune 500 in 2013, with an annual revenue of $84.8 billion.
Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE: UNP) has used a shield as its logo since 1887, and it began using patriotic colors the year after that. Also in 1888, the company added the words “The Overland Route” — as the rail line was commonly called — to its shield. After briefly experimenting with a modernist-style shield in the early 1940s, the company returned to its traditional colors but without the Overland Route reference. The company again briefly overhauled its shield in 1962, when it adopted a square, red-and-white shield. Ten months later it abandoned the idea. Since then, the company has used the red-white-and-blue shield for its logo. Union Pacific faces competition from several companies, but notes its largest competitor is Warren Buffett-owned BNSF Railway.
One of the largest health care companies in the world, Johnson and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) was founded in 1886 by Robert Wood Johnson and his two brothers to make surgical dressings. By 1890, the company was shipping sterile dressings throughout the United States. The logo itself is modeled after founding brother James Wood Johnson’s signature. According to a website maintained by the firm’s chief historian, the logo has been “part of Johnson and Johnson since the beginning.” From 1887 onwards, the company also frequently used a red cross emblem on its products. In 2007, Johnson and Johnson sued the American Red Cross, alleging trademark infringement. The company lost.
In 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton began selling Coca-Cola at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta. Soon after, the company adopted its world-famous logo, featuring an elaborate cursive script and two looping capitalized Cs. Since then, the Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) has made few tweaks to its core logo, adding the “dynamic ribbon” — the white swirl that underlines the lettering on its logos — in 1969. In its 2012 report, Interbrand noted that Coca-Cola was the world’s most valuable brand, worth an estimated $77.8 billion. According to a recent NPR report, with the easing of trade restrictions in Myanmar, there are just two countries where Coca-Cola is not sold: Cuba and North Korea.
Deere & Company’s (NYSE: DE) trademark image of a deer leaping over a log was registered in 1876, but the company began using it three years before. There have been changes to the logo’s design along the way. The original deer used was a type generally found in Africa, while today’s logo uses a North American white-tailed deer. In addition, while the original logo was in black and white with “John Deere” written above the deer, today’s version is in green and yellow with John Deere written below the deer. The log is no longer a part of the logo either. Today, the company makes a host of different products ranging from tractors to diesel engines to lawnmowers. In 2013, John Deere was ranked 85th in the Fortune 500, with more than $36 billion in revenue.