Oil company logos are often a lie in visual form. The most modern logo designs in this industry are bright and somewhat environmental in nature, meant to make viewers think of anything but oil. This is due to the nature of the industry itself; it is dirty and destructive to the environment by nature. The general public knows this. While an oil company cannot outright present themselves as clean, green and friendly without being called on it, they definitely stand to gain from using a logo design that portrays these values in a more subtle way.
As an example of this principle, consider the BP logo dealing with it’s oily image. It is earthy and green, with a large flower/sun that feels bright and friendly. This is a very useful ethos to present to the market; it makes a subconscious effect on the viewer. The old Marathon Oil logo design did not present this image at all, which gave the company a definite disadvantage. It is more similar to the patriotic oil company logos seen in the seventies and eighties, a feeling that is no longer congruent with what the market wants.
The new logo places Marathon Oil on par with BP and its other well-branded competition. A wave of clean blue water is the main image, one that gives a swooshy feeling of movement in addition to referring to an unpolluted and unsullied environment. It seems almost like a visual smack-down of BP and other tragedy-stricken companies that could not use this image without massive outcry. The writing is rounded and friendly, without any hard edges or industrial aspects. The only criticism of this logo design is in a lost opportunity to tie into the name; the new wave is almost an M and could easily have been drawn to resemble such.
Unlike many oil and energy companies, Marathon Oil is not involved in clean energy in any manner. Their line of business is oil: finding it, mining it, moving it from point A to point B, and refining it into something we can use in our cars and heating systems. The clean and fluid feeling of the logo does not match this business model in any way, but it does place the company on par with its competition. In addition, the old logo was outdated and ugly. It needed changed, very badly so.
Is it okay to lie with logo design? Unfortunately, oil companies are no more responsible for the destructiveness of oil products than any one of us in the general public. As long as we demand their products, they will supply them. It only makes sense that the oil companies will present themselves in a way that makes customers feel a little more at ease with their purchases.
The logo design makes all the right implications, and it does it in a visually attractive way. However, it is very trendy, which means that in a few short years this logo design will be just as dated as the old one appears today. Something timeless and simpler may have been a better choice for Marathon Oil, something iconic that could be used for decades without becoming passé. After all, branding is not a sprint, but rather a marathon—no pun intended.