Have you ever seen the turquoise arches and craved a hamburger?

A woman poses next to blue-green arches

My girlfriend and I drove into Sedona, Arizona, for a weekend of hiking in gorgeous landscapes. Tooling around the quaint, southwestern town we spotted a McDonald’s sign — but the iconic golden arches weren’t yellow — they were turquoise.

Why do companies make changes to their logos?

Companies can change their logos for many reasons, but usually it’s either for novelty appeal or rebranding. Temporarily altering a logo is one way big brands try to capitalize on holidays, special events such as the Olympic Games or seasonal campaigns. Remember when Coke first replaced its logo on drink bottles with first names?

Novelty aside, logos are more commonly changed when a company’s marketing team determines that the original logo is somehow problematic or wasn’t properly crafted in the first place. But none of this explains the turquoise arches.

It turns out, the folks opening the McDonald’s in Sedona were told to lose the yellow and red signage or open the restaurant elsewhere!

What was the problem?

The City of Sedona’s visual brand revolves around beloved and iconic rock formations creating a Wild-West, terracotta-colored backdrop for the town. The city protects its brand through building and design codes. Buildings are required to sit squat and low, and advertising billboards are conspicuously missing from the horizon. The town’s appearance is controlled, and the case of the turquoise arches is a most interesting example of this control.

When the restaurant was built, the City of Sedona wouldn’t approve yellow arches on the sign or on the building as they felt the yellow and bright red clashed with the city’s famous rock formations.

Branding knockout

The color clash was a result of opposing brand identities — the visual brand of the City of Sedona was at odds with the McDonald’s logo. McDonald’s was willing to accommodate the city, and the turquoise arches are the outstanding result.

The Sedona McDonald’s got a free side order of novelty appeal — it boasts the only McDonald’s in the world with arches that aren’t golden!

We don’t necessarily recommend that businesses overhaul their logo based on the context of the logo application, but there are many times additional logo variations are helpful, if they are created correctly by a skilled team that is well versed in the visual language of the brand.

Brand standards — the premiere guide for any company’s logo and branding — dictates when a logo and its colors are used, including on website layouts, social media icons or black-and-white or reverse versions. Variations are included and thought up beforehand by a skilled graphic designer to provide a company a clear guide on exactly how, when and why to alter a logo or company color scheme.

Copywriter Amanda Farrar thrives on conveying brands and experiences through descriptive storytelling. With complementary skill in studio art, she takes delight in the challenge of describing visual style and content using the written word.   

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