NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

PCC rebrands: Cooperative drops “Natural Markets” for “Community Markets”

For decades, PCC (the Puget Consumers Cooperative) has been a fixture of Seattle and more recently the greater Seattle metropolitan area, providing organic food from local farms, ranches, bakeries, and dairies. When we need food for an event, such as our annual Winter Holiday Party, NPI turns to PCC.

Since 1998, when PCC adopted the moniker “Natural Markets” to distinguish itself as a different kind of grocer, this has been its increasingly omnipresent visual identity, gracing the fronts of its growing number of stores:

PCC Logo (1998-2017)

But as of today, PCC has a new look and a new name: PCC Community Markets.

PCC Community Markets

Here’s the explanation for the change:

In 1998, when Puget Consumers Co-op changed its name to PCC Natural Markets, the world was a very different place. You could buy a home in Seattle for $180,000, a dozen eggs cost 88 cents, and organic foods were years away from being stocked in the average kitchen. At the time, adding “natural” to our name made it clear to shoppers who we were, how we were different and what we believed.

Now, 20 years later, Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, drawing thousands of potential new members to our region. More people recognize the importance of natural and organic products to support their health and the environment’s, which means these products are more widely available.

The word “natural” remains undefined by regulators and, as a result, is overused, diluted and less impactful.

Over a year ago, we started to really think about what these changes mean for our co-op. We asked ourselves, “How do we stay relevant in one of the most competitive grocery cities in the country, stay true to our co-op values and honor our members who set us apart?”

We talked to members, shoppers, PCC staff and our Board of Trustees to answer this question, and you reinforced what has made PCC relevant for over six decades. You told us you appreciate that we’re member-owned and always have been. You value that we have direct, personal relationships with local producers, farmers and ranchers. You trust that in every department of our store, we have the highest quality standards around, and you appreciate that our staff are always willing to share their knowledge, passion and a smile. In fact, it’s this sense of community that brings you back to PCC, time and again.

And so, we felt our name should reflect this. That’s why we are changing our name to PCC Community Markets. PCC Community Markets is who we already are, and who we’ve always been since our modest start as a food club in 1953.

With the new name comes other exciting changes. A new logo. New, reusable totes. A new, easier-to-navigate website with an improved recipe search. New aprons for our staff.

We’re even launching a new, local, organic, grass-fed, animal welfare-approved PCC yogurt in partnership with Pure Èire Dairy — because PCC really is about the culture we create.

All of these changes include a long-standing dedication to organic and natural foods, and honest shelves. In fact, PCC’s product standards are among the highest in the nation.

So, whether you’ve been a member for a few months or 50 years; whether you care deeply about food and ingredient quality and policy, or are a champion of the co-op economy; or, whether you simply want to support a local Seattle market and the farmers, ranchers and producers who fill our shelves — thank you for taking a seat at our table and for being part of the PCC community.

Cate Hardy
CEO, PCC Community Markets

This is a sensible and well-thought out name change, but we’re really going to miss the old logo. The new one isn’t as cheery, resonant, or appealing. PCC could have easily modified its already excellent logo to just drop “Natural” for “Community”.

Most people have probably heard of the adage If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it at one point or another. Sadly, this adage is increasingly ignored in the marketing world as companies and organizations rush to undertake expensive rebanding exercises, often at shorter and shorter intervals. Change can be good, but it should have a purpose. Change for the sake of change is usually unnecessary.

Mozilla, for example, recently finished replacing its perfectly serviceable logo out of a misplaced desire to rebrand. There was nothing wrong with the old logo. Nevertheless, Mozilla leadership decided it had to be replaced.

Some well-known companies have sensibly resisted the urge to nuke their visual identities and start over. Imagine if Disney, Coca-Cola, or Ford dropped their iconic marks one day and “rebranded” with unfamiliar logos. There’d be a lot of consternation, and perhaps worse, confusion. Those companies would be jeopardizing decades of investment in marketing were they to do so.

With respect to PCC, the name change was necessary because PCC needs to emphasize what makes it uniquely different from competitors. Years ago, major grocers did not carry organic lines and Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s had not yet proliferated. Today, there are lots of products branded as “natural”, and as CEO Cate Hardy noted, the term has no legally enforced meaning. It’s very vague.

But the logo change seems to be something that’s being implemented at the same time merely for the sake of having a new visual identity.

While Cate’s letter articulates very compelling reasons for the name change, there is no justification provided for the logo change. It is mentioned only in passing.

PCC has been well-served by its leaf logo, which is simple, distinctive, inviting, and timeless. One of the most important features of the leaf logo is that it can easily be seen from a distance. Driving or walking up to a store, it’s always reassuring to see the PCC leaf and know that wholesome food is just steps away.

If you look at photos of PCC’s stores, you can see the leaf logo is the distinct and identifying feature that marks each building as a PCC store. The logo appears on store exteriors as a three dimensional metal structure. It’s graceful and iconic.

The new logo lacks the strengths of the leaf logo. The initialism is harder to make out because the characters in PCC all have different dimensions, with the P and second C de-emphasized in favor of the middle C, which looks more like an O that’s not fully closed. The center element, which is where the eye is drawn to, is an illustration that can vary, resulting in an inconsistent look and feel.

And while green was a common attribute that linked past logos together, this new logo breaks with that and uses orange for the lettering against a field of dark blue.

PCC no doubt went to some expense to commission a new logo, and they’re not likely to bring the leaf logo back just because we and other members like it a lot better. But we wish they would. The illustrations and color scheme of the new logo could be repurposed for advertising campaigns or other uses.

One final note: this Saturday, PCC will be having community fairs at its stores, and you can drop by to learn more about the cooperative and become a member.

Find your nearest store here.

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