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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