March 20, 2013

What You Can Learn about Branding from Beavers

What You Can Learn about Branding from Beavers

We don’t typically think of university sports teams as being a brand, exactly, but that’s what they are. College football teams are hefty revenue sources for schools, and in order to keep those cash-cows delivering rich, nutritious, milky profits, colleges and universities have to keep their brands fresh and relevant. Keeping this in mind, Oregon State University worked with Nike to redesign their logo and develop a whole, across the board rebrand. Slick.

Nike actually worked with another popular Oregon school team – the University of Oregon’s Ducks – in order to boost their profile, and succeeded spectacularly. Interestingly, the Oregon Ducks are the bitter rivals of the Oregon Beavers (as they are in nature, we suspect). Conflict of interest? Who cares!

Aside from the wisdom of having a billion-dollar global corporation generously take charge of your branding efforts for free, what can we learn from all of this?

Nike Oregon

Keep Your Logo Simple

Apparently, the complexity of the design and color composition of the previous Beaver head badges was extremely difficult to replicate on different mediums. The beaver heads never looked consistent on the different pieces of merchandise, making it difficult for the public to embrace or even remember the logo.

When designing a brand logo, make sure that it can be reproduced with ease. The color gallery for digital mediums is limited, but there are still great options available. Remember, you don’t have to come up with the world’s most unusual color in order for your logo design to be effective, and there can be a distinct advantage to choosing one color scheme over another when it comes to printing.

Likewise, you don’t have to create a logo design that the eye can barely comprehend in order to stand out from the crowd. Look at Nike’s logo, for heaven’s sake. It’s a swoosh; a kind of bastard offspring from a check mark and a cursive U. Simple, yes. Iconic, definitely.

Individuate Your Identity.

The previous Oregon State logo was the interlocking of an orange O and an S. Clean and simple, for sure, but unfortunately it was consistently confused with Oklahoma State University’s iconography, which is also orange, and features an O and an S.

Make sure you do your research on the branding of your competition. Great minds do think alike, but greater minds have the foresight to check and see if someone has come up with almost the exact same logo as you.

Involve a Professional Third Party

Oregon State University can be forgiven for not having a team of marketing sharks at its disposal up till now, but it is nonetheless a good idea to have an outside opinion of what works and what doesn’t. So, go out and hire Nike to take care of it all for you. Mission accomplished!

Just kidding; Nike might be a little to expensive! But don’t despair; there are lots of great design firms that can offer you their brilliant consultation and design services (ahem). Don’t be afraid to use the many marketing and branding resources at your disposal. It may seem as though using your artistically gifted cousin for your logo, print and Web design might save you money, but if you want to compete with the big boys, you’ll want to bring in a design firm that knows what he/she is doing. Moreover, using a novice in the field of visual marketing could leave you open to problems you might never have dreamed of. What if your cousin uses a similar logo for his blog about his love of degenerate Furry Fandom?

So, what have we learned today? We learned that if you wait long enough, Nike will come and rescue you from marketing obscurity (it’ll be a looooong wait, though). We learned that keeping logo and icon design unique and straight-forward is always best. We learned that Oregon is ablaze with the constant, violent warfare of vicious beavers and ducks. Lastly, we learned that just saying the word “beaver” has made you extremely uncomfortable. Beaver! Ha! Go take a shower.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

Let's work together.

Tell us a little about your project, and we'll be in touch right away.

Your Details

Don't worry, this is for our eyes only, but we want to be able to reach out to you and chat.


Your Project

We help brands solve complex problems to cut through retail clutter to accelerate their sales and growth while minimizing any risks. Tell us how we can help you.

What type of Project are you enquiring about?

What is your budget? $40 - 80k

What is your timeline 4 - 10 Weeks +

Submit Away

Thanks for taking the time to share your project. We'll take a close look and get back to you as soon as possible.

Prepare for a quick response!