Hooters is about to mess with the wise, ol' bird that arguably got it where it is.
"Hootie," the iconic owl that has served as a 30-year-old brand image -- lambasted by some for looking way too much like a woman's breasts -- is getting a serious makeover as part of the chain's overall move to modernize.
Old owl: scruffy-looking and fuddy-duddyish. New owl: Lean and mean.
Not changing: the sexual imagery. "The (visual) double entendre remains in place," says Dave Henninger, chief marketing officer. "We want to keep the tongue-in-cheek wink going."
The move comes at a time several other restaurant chains also have updated their logos in bids to appeal to appeal to Millennials.
Late last year, Wendy's modernized its logo - with a cleaner design -- to look more contemporary. Two years ago, Starbucks updated its familiar siren logo and made her the entire brand focus -- even eliminating the name Starbucks on some product packaging.
For Hooters, the move comes at a time the chain has lost serious mojo. Hooters stood still for almost a decade while a slew of rival "breastaurants" -- including Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt - moved into its territory and snatched away business with more contemporary menus, designs and uniforms.
WATCH: Hooters girl impresses golfers with textbook swing
But under new leadership, Hooters has recently begun to rebound with better food, new designs and even plans to update its iconic uniforms.
"We wanted to give 'Hootie' a facelift along with the stores," says Henninger. Three decades ago, when the fledgling Hooters had no logo, the company traced the owl's image from the pages of a dictionary, he says.
But executives aren't making this change lightly. Hooters did online research with 300 consumers to comment on a handful of different owl designs created by the Atlanta design firm Sky Design. In consumer polling, the new design was preferred roughly 9 to one over the old design says Henninger.
Between now and October, the new logo will replace the old logo on tank tops worn by Hooters waitresses. By late August, it will show up on menus. As stores are remodeled, it will show up on signage
Brand consultant Erika Napoletano says Hooters needs to do much more than re-do the owl. "Rebranding isn't about refreshing a logo," she says. "It's about building a brand that fulfills the brand promise."
But brand guru Peter Madden gives thumbs-up to the new design. "The old, scruffy owl had a real Mom-and-Pop feel to it."
Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY