A Brand Renaissance?
"Olive Garden has recently undergone a brand renaissance." The only thing they got right was the use of the word renaissance. The word fits their brand archetype to a tee, yet their new logo doesn't. Everyone is talking about how they don't like it, but no one is talking about why.
The Brand is Incongruent
Folks don't like it because it is opposite of what Olive Garden wants to be known for. The new mark is more modern graphically, but it doesn't reflect the attributes you can find on Olive Garden's "About Us" page.
"Italy is the inspiration behind our restaurants, from the ingredients we use to our award-winning wine list. Most of all, we are inspired by the Italian culture – warmth, genuine hospitality and the importance placed on family."
Does this new logo visually represent "warmth, genuine hospitality and family" served in a "comfortable, home-like setting"? It communicates fast casual, modern and cold, but not "warmth, genuine hospitality and family" served in a "comfortable, home-like setting."
What this demonstrates is what I refer to as breaking the brand congruency equation.
Broken Expectations in Our Minds
That's why I believe so many people are upset. It has broken their perception they have developed of what they believe Olive Garden to be. It like when a friend does something out of character. It breaks trust. Expectations help us feel safe and when they are broken, we don't. It's an automatic subconscious emotional response. Brand strategists and designers (in this particular case, Lippincott out of New York) need to be aware they are speaking to that part of the mind, that part of a person, that part of a customer.