Agencies Dissect Foursquare’s Makeover

A new logo, redesigned app, but what does it all mean?

Foursquare yesterday unveiled a fresh "F-pin" logo and ultimately a new brand strategy, as it plans to release a starkly different version of its app in three weeks. Adweek asked marketing players who have used the app what they made of the pivots.

Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of Vivaldi Partners Group, a brand strategy consulting firm that works with Ford, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods and Frito-Lay, said the moves were a sign of the times.

"In the old days, one would say: 'We screwed up. We are dead,'" he explained. "But today, the consumer is in control, and consumers' preferences change frequently—often by the month or even hour. So, a pivot is not necessarily saying something bad about a company. But it still does communicate that its strategy has not been working. The question to ask now: Will the new strategy work and why? In my opinion, Foursquare will face some significant headwinds to get the new Foursquare to become used ubiquitously."

Roy DeYoung, svp of creative services at search marketing agency PM Digital, also wondered if the tech company's makeover would take with consumers.

"Foursquare definitely thinks it's better than the old logo, but their brand opinion won't necessarily influence user reactions," DeYoung said. "Following in the footsteps of Airbnb's recent rebrand and new logo controversy, the biggest takeaway for brands now when it comes to logo redesign should be focus-group testing."

To DeYoung's point, the Airbnb hubbub from last week showed that rebrands can entail unusual twists and turns. But Foursquare's new look and feel appear to be driven by an app—known for its check-ins, mayorships and search discovery—that's aiming to provide more utilities.

"If you look at mocks of the new app experience, they're also signaling this authority with a more serious, staid blue color palette and an all caps wordmark," said Sam Becker, creative director at Brand Union. "And the F-pin will be particularly useful for them as a proprietary map marker used throughout their [user experience]."

The rebrand also seems to vaguely point to how Foursquare will work with its two-month-old sister app, Swarm. Starting today, Foursquare will move all Foursquare check-ins worldwide to Swarm, as "roughly two-thirds of our users are already on the new app worldwide," a rep for the tech company said. Past check-ins, friends and photos will be automatically ported over to Swarm, according to the rep.

Though when it comes to having two products instead of just one, Becker said, "It's still unclear to me why this was necessary."

He added that "rebranding is something you always want to do from a position of strength, i.e., 'We're changing from something good to something great, and we want the world to know about it. We're not a startup anymore. And we've outgrown our baby clothes.' Sometimes you simply want to convey that you now do something different. In Foursquare's case, it seems to be a blend of the strategic: We're doubling down on personalized search results that focus on you and the functional. [And] we’re splitting our product into two apps, Foursquare and Swarm."

When the latest Foursquare version emerges next month, the result will likely inspire more curiousity among industry observers than its logo has this week. After all, product makes a tech company. Or, as in music, the band name is only as good as the band.

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