Thanks for the warm welcome, all. For my first post, I thought it apropos to cover a story originating in the province of my birth, Saskatchewan.

A recent attempt by Saskatchewan’s new government to introduce a new provincial logo clearly demonstrates the need to have a clear and coherent branding strategy in place before rushing headlong down the path to change.

In early December, members of the province’s governing party, the Saskatchewan Party, announced their intention to change the province’s logo. In a move reminiscent of the Tory’s adoption of the Canada’s New Government slogan shortly after they took power in 2006, Saskatchewan’s new government decided that the iconic wheat sheaf symbol had to go. Deputy Premier Ken Krawetz criticized the logo, calling it “dated” and claiming it was no longer an accurate reflection of the province and its broad-based economic boom. (The logo was originally introduced by an NDP-led government under Allen Blakeney in the 1970s, though public notice of the province’s adoption of the sheaf was not issued until 1982.)

In a somewhat curious twist, Krawetz did not introduce a replacement for the sheaf; instead, he urged government ministries to use the province’s shield of arms or its coat of arms until a new logo was developed. Ironically, these marks each prominently depict three wheat sheaves.

However, Krawetz’s announcement was met with, to put it lightly, something less than broad-based enthusiasm. Despite a few local newspaper editorials plugging the proposal, it appeared Saskatchewanians were wildly unenthused by the change. Local call-in shows and newspaper editorial boards were flooded by citizens attached to the dear olde sheaf and unhappy with the use of their tax dollars to fund the new logo. (Some citizens, however, took the opportunity to take logo lemons and make lemonaid, proposing that a new au courant logo might include a genetically modified wheat sheaf, a nuclear power reactor, or a Saskatchewan Roughrider puffing a cigar. Personally, I’ve always been partial to this mark but admittedly, it may not be appropriate for the Premier’s letterhead.)

Five days later, after all of the wheat sheaf images were removed from the Government of Saskatchewan’s website, the government succumbed to public pressure and announced it had decided not to change the logo, at least for now. In a confusing and inadvertently humorous news release titled “Wheat Sheaf Logo To Be Retained: New Saskatchewan Government Listens To Public”, Krawetz stated that while he understood some Saskatchewanians were against the change, the logo change had never been a governmental priority, and that for those who oppose changing, it’s not really a matter of whether or not they like the wheat sheaf logo. It was a question of priorities. Whatever that means.

In any event, this story illustrates that altering a brand is a big step that should not be undertaken lightly, particularly when that brand includes a prominent symbol historically associated with the hopes and dreams of an entire province.

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Jeffrey Vicq is a Partner and co-chair of the Intellectual Property and Information Technology practice groups at Clark Wilson. A lawyer and registered Canadian Trademark Agent, Jeffrey has written and spoken extensively on IP and commercial law issues relating to the Internet and to e-commerce in Canada.