Merck KGaA hopes to spiff up its image with new logo, fewer names

Merck KGaA has a new leadership team in healthcare, and as of Tuesday, a newly named successor to its CEO. Now it's working on a new brand identity.

Long frustrated by the fact that it shares a moniker with U.S.-based Merck & Co. ($MRK), the so-called "German Merck" is going to assert its naming rights. Merck KGaA will drop its divisional names Merck Serono (biopharma) and Merck Millipore (life sciences supplies), sticking to Merck--just plain Merck--for all its operations, at least outside North America.

Along with the name changes, the German company is rolling out a suite of graphics, including a new logo.

"We want to be recognizable and remain visible as Merck worldwide so as to strengthen our well-known brand name," CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley said in a statement. "For this we have deliberately rid ourselves of outdated features and will be focusing on a young and eye-catching image."

Merck KGaA's new logo outside of its modular innovation center--Courtesy of Merck KGaA

As Kley notes, the company has evolved over the past decade, from a "classic supplier of chemicals and pharmaceuticals" to a company focused on biopharma, lab supplies and technology, and high-tech materials. It's also in the process of buying Sigma-Aldrich ($SIAL).

So, the company wants to be perceived "as a vibrant technology company," communications chief Walter Huber said in a statement. The new logo and imagery is inspired by the "colorful and multifaceted shapes seen under a microscope," the company said, including a custom font full of ovals, teardrop shapes, and acute angles.

The German company's move to drop the Serono and Millipore names almost everywhere, and launch its new brand identity, follows a decision earlier this year to put more resources behind its brand. Too often, people confuse the Germany- and U.S.-based companies, executives said at the time. For example, Facebook let Merck & Co. take over Merck KGaA's official page, a mistake that took a while to sort out.

"[W]e have decided to stop the dilution of our brand," Huber told the Financial Times of the latest change. Merck KGaA owns "the rights to the name in 191 of the 193 UN member states and we do not want to give it up."

In the States, where Merck & Co. owns those rights, the German company will continue to operate as EMD Serono in pharma and EMD Millipore, at least till its buyout of Sigma-Aldrich wraps up. Merck & Co. operates under the Merck Sharp & Dohme brand (MSD) outside the U.S. and Canada.

To tie the North American business into the global brand--despite the differing names--the entire group will share a "striking, multicolored 'M'." The new branding was designed by FutureBrand, a which has also worked with Bentley and Nespresso.

- read the release from Merck
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