Army & Air Force Exchange Service Logo Changes

By Mash Bonigala

If you are in the military, you have definitely heard of the Exchange. However, most people outside the armed forces aren’t familiar with this chain of base stores. The Exchange, short for Army & Air Force Exchange Service, is the go-to place for groceries, clothing, restaurants, and just about everything in Army and Air Force bases both at home and abroad.

The Exchange until recently had a somewhat antiquated brand and logo design, probably due to a lack of competition. After all, most people are more likely to buy in their own neighborhood, especially if you have to pass an armed checkpoint to leave and return. In addition, the Exchange tends to offer steep discounts over off-base prices to help those military family budgets stretch as far as possible. However, the Exchange recently changed their logo design to one that military members and their close relatives will actually want to include in their shopping trips.

There isn’t a lot to say about the old logo design, except that it makes the civilians among us think of G.I. Joe. The new one keeps its most positive elements while building a more attractive retail brand. The new logo uses the nickname for the establishment, creating a sense of informality. The X image is recognizable enough to be used on its own, allowing the store to use its new design in a variety of formats.

In addition, the way the image is formed by two arrows converging was purposefully drawn to represent the two branches that use the business. The chevron (three dimensional arrow) is used in both Army and Air Force insignia, tying further into the brand’s military roots. A right-pointing arrow makes most consumers think of change and forward movement, and is thus used in many different  corporate logos.

The new logo design is relevant to the military without being obvious. It has a laid-back charm that will appeal to people who live in a more formal, less friendly military performance environment. However, it doesn’t go overboard in its casualness—the bold image and upper case lettering maintain a distinctly official tone. Further, it makes the nickname for the AAFES an official part of the chain. If your customers are already calling you one thing, why keep pushing another version?

Rebranding is an essential part of staying relevant, and the Exchange is certainly relevant to military life. Founded in 1895, few businesses are as deeply embedded in the on-base lifestyle. The Exchange is not just a business, but a major supporter of military families; most of the profits (which amounted to $261 million in 2009) are funneled back into programs that support the quality of military life. Our servicemen and their families deserve a brand that they can be proud of, and the new Exchange logo design offers just that. The new logo offers a subtle but appropriate mix of official military sentiment and consumer appeal.

Even the strongest brands need an occasional change. We’re happy to say that this feels like a move in the right direction.