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Here's How the Pandemic Resulted in a Temporary Change to an Iconic Logo

By Danny Vena - Dec 23, 2020 at 9:00AM

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Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

The world changed in 2020 in ways that many simply could not have foreseen. The coronavirus pandemic etched remote work, social distancing, and wearing a mask into the memories of a generation. One company took the unexpected step of updating its distinctive and easily recognizable logo to something more befitting the times.

On this episode of Fool Live that aired on Nov. 23, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and contributor Danny Vena were joined by Federico Sandler, MercadoLibre's ( MELI 0.93% ) head of investor relations, who explained why the company temporarily altered its "shaking hands" logo.

David Gardner: Federico, I wanted to ask you about a brand management decision which caught my attention, because I do a weekly podcast called Rule Breaker Investing, and I got a wonderful letter written to my mailbag about the decision to change the MercadoLibre's logo, and what that tells us about your company and brand management. Could you describe what you've done in 2020?

Federico Sandler: Yeah. Because obviously, the pandemic required social distancing, and we are good corporate citizens, and we also want to help out not only our shareholders, but our stakeholders, what we've done is for those who are more familiar with the story, usually, the MercadoLibre logo was a handshake, and now, it's elbow to elbow. The idea is the campaign is to call it "We're elbow to elbow in the difficult times until we can do a handshake again." We've switched the logos, both Pago and MELI from a handshake to an elbow to elbow in a way to also generate awareness about distancing, but that eventually, we will be able to shake hands again as we did in the past. It's served pretty well, I would say, as a branding exercise. But also, we've donated to food banks across the region, worked with the Red Cross, but we were one of the first companies to do that changing logos, and then we saw other publicly traded companies doing that actually.

Gardner: Well, I thought it was pretty brilliant. It was pointed out to me that it takes some courage, potentially. You're operating in some countries that were not the most observant of better practices, sometimes, the governments not that great -- the United States might be an example -- at curbing the virus because of some of the leadership decisions and communications. When you come out as a prominent, well-known company doing that, did you get any brush back, any criticism? Did you have any worries about doing that?

Sandler: No, not at all. Actually, we had a very good feedback. Like I said, many companies, not only locally, but regionally, began to try to tweak their logos to show or try to help on the social distancing side. So no, not at all. I would say to the contrary, it was incredibly helpful. We appeared in newspapers. That brand positioning was very positive. In fact, we're also plotting planes. It was very positive.

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