Zomato: A Spoonful Of Change?

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | February 03, 2015
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Zomato has changed its logo after acquiring Urbanspoon, a USA-based restaurant information and recommendation service. This design overhaul comes just months after Zomato released its previous logo, a fork-stabbed heart. Does the change come all too soon? Is there any such thing?

Last October, when Zomato rolled out its new logo - a heart with a fork sticking out of it - the message was loud and clear: It's a brand that works hard to service the passionate foodie. And if Twitter bios are anything to go by, there are plenty of those among us. This was Zomato's first big design-centric push since its inception in 2008.

Now, just months later, the popular online and mobile restaurant discovery service has changed its logo again. Gone is the heart; in its stead, is a white spoon against a red background.

Zomato's new logo after Urban Spoon's acquisition

Urban Spoon's logo

Zomato's new heart logo with a fork launched in October 2014

This new design has everything to do with Zomato's recent acquisition of Urbanspoon, a Seattle-based restaurant information and recommendation service, one of the most recognised consumer internet brands in the United States, Canada and Australia. Reportedly, $52 million exchanged hands.

While the acquisition is great news for Zomato, doesn't this redesign exercise appear premature? And isn't it queer when the acquirer goes the extra mile to don the dress of the acquired?

Zomato's red background logo

Zomato's logo after it was renamed from Foodiebay

Deepinder Goyal

Deepinder Goyal, CEO, Zomato, says in a recent blog post on the matter: "You're probably thinking that we're nuts to be doing this only a couple of months after releasing our Heart logo. But for us, this is a simple case of making sure that the transition (of merging Urbanspoon to Zomato) is the least painful for the most number of our users. We want to make sure that when we update the Urbanspoon app for millions of users, we don't give them a new name and a new icon. Doing that could make it look like they installed the Zomato app by mistake, potentially leading to a large number of uninstalls."

While that's all very well, what about the users of Zomato's mobile app? Goyal answers this in his write-up: "For Zomato users, they get a new logo, but retain the name. Hopefully, that shouldn't give us a large number of uninstalls (not much was lost when we moved to the Heart logo a couple of months ago). We have already begun trying to get Urbanspoon users used to the new red in their life. If you've seen the Urbanspoon website recently, you'll notice that we have started using the red in the logo."

The acquisition of Urbanspoon took Zomato's restaurant coverage from about three lakh restaurants to over 10 lakh restaurants, worldwide. Thanks to Urbanspoon, Zomato's traffic (mobile app and website) has more than doubled - it has gone from about 35 million visits per month to over 80 million visits per month.

Twitter reaction over Zomato's new logo design with the spoon

Twitter reaction over Zomato's new logo design with the spoon

Twitter reaction over Zomato's new logo design with the spoon

Calling this the first step of the migration, Goyal apologises, "We understand this is going to be another change for all of you who have been using Zomato regularly; it's also the most painful for us - the cost and effort of changing our logo everywhere across the world is humongous. But overall, we really hope we'll be given another chance to familiarise ourselves with your home screens. We promise we won't ask you to do this again for a long time to come!"

A walk down logo lane (see images) shows us how Zomato's visual identity has evolved over the years: it has gone from a capital 'Z' (for Zomato), to the entire name of the brand, to the heart with a fork, and finally to a spoon. The last one is essentially the Urbanspoon logo, albeit in Zomato's signature red. The heart, one may recall, was the result of a collaborative effort between Helvetic Brands, a Switzerland-based brand consultancy, and Zomato's in-house creative team.

Fork Trumps Spoon...

...say design and branding experts.

While Zomato users and netizens casually voice their feedback about the logo revamp on social media (see screenshots of some of the Tweets out there), the communication experts we spoke to analyse the change through their professional lenses.

Bhupal Ramnathkar

Harish Bijoor

Most find the new logo rather bland for a vibrant brand like Zomato. "The previous logo had some meaning and some thought behind it," says Bhupal Ramnathkar, founder, Umbrella Design, a Mumbai-based design agency. Ironically, he finds the new logo a touch old-fashioned.

According Ramnathkar, it takes time for consumers to associate a particular logo with a brand. Thus, "frequently changing the visual identity only serves to harm it," he opines. The 'heart logo', adds the design expert, "truly represented a foodie. From a design perspective, it was 'modern and edgy', and therefore in sync with Zomato's core target audience."

Instead of changing the logo all together, the brand team "could have included the spoon along with the fork in the heart logo itself," he says.

"I think patience is dead," says Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, a Bengaluru-based brand consultancy, going on to call Zomato's decision to change its logo this soon a rather short-sighted one. He echoes Ramnathkar's point - merging the spoon into the heart logo would have been better than letting the visual identity of Urbanspoon wash over Zomato's own.

"The company should always maintain its originality while making acquisitions or entering into different geographies," Bijoor says.

Traditionally, for many companies, having a stable logo has been important partly because it helps buyers recognise the products easily. A cement brand, for instance, is readily identified on the shelf by a mason, who looks for the familiar colours and shape of its logo.

However, the playing field, we presume, is quite different for a young, digital brand, that doesn't operate in the physical space and doesn't really rely on its logo for instant recognition. Perhaps, the old rules of the branding game - such as maintaining a uniform visual identity over the years - don't apply to the likes of Zomato. Or do they?

According to Bijoor, whether physical or digital, the identity of a product must always be established strongly in what he calls the consumer mind space. "Changing it frequently will confuse the consumer and eventually harm the brand," cautions the brand guru.

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