A quandry: Wearing an old name on a new image

How important is a name?

Most expectant parents believe it sets the tone for a lifetime, becoming one of the cornerstones of a person’s identity.  That’s why choosing one is such a daunting task.

Magazines are no different.  A magazine’s title announces what it’s about and the audience it targets.

And just like a child’s name, a magazine’s title has to stand the test of time, to be versatile enough to grow along with its owner.

So what to do when a name seems passé or out-of-touch?  And can a magazine change its identity while keeping its moniker?

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING* this month published three different covers for the October issue, two of them sporting a new logo with an oversized ‘GOOD’ and a tiny, diminished ‘housekeeping’ in the background.

It appeared that Good Housekeeping, like someone saddled with a cumbersome, outdated name, was attempting to change it just enough that you might not notice the full title.  While ‘good’ is a word anyone can get behind, ‘housekeeping’ is a loaded term, filled with negative associations and possible gender stereotyping.

This isn’t the first time a magazine has played with its logo to fit a changing identity.  LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL*, in print since 1883, began emphasizing the word ‘Journal,’ and shrunk the ‘Ladies’ Home,’ from the late 1920s through the millennium. Only in the spring of 2003 did the word ‘Home’ get equal stature—perhaps in response to the post-911 nesting trend.  This year it reverted back to the prominent ‘Journal’ logo, with the rest of the title barely noticeable.

It may seem futile to tinker with a logo in the hope of revamping a magazine’s image, instead of changing the title to reflect a more modern focus. A few magazines have gone the full distance, taking a new title when the editorial focus shifts, but it’s a risky proposition.

Like professional women who keep their maiden names after marriage, women’s service magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal have brand recognition, with established reputations attached to their names.  They may have changed, but the value of their names has not.


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