Changing Times

20/01/2007

In September of 1985, Malaysia unveiled its first locally produced car named Proton Saga. It was the culmination of years of careful planning and marked the beginning of Malaysia’s automotive industry. The first car was not much to scream about, though there was a lot of national pride surrounding it, especially during the first year. It received a lot of media coverage, and was the topic of discussion for the general public. Everything about it was scrutinized, including the logo.

The Original Proton Logo

Proton Old LogoThis logo was the original logo used by PROTON (Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional). At the base of the logo is a crescent moon and atop it, prominently displayed in the centre is a fourteen pointed star. The background is blue in colour, while both the crescent moon and the fourteen pointed star is yellow. While this logo has a symbolic meaning that is obvious at the first glance to Malaysians, most foreigners will not be able to understand it at all. Why? Because the logo is based on the Malaysian flag.

Malaysian FlagThe Malaysian flag, as you can see, has a similar crescent moon and the fourteen pointed star in a blue carton in the top left hand corner of the flag. The crescent moon represents the national religion, which is Islam, and the fourteen pointed star stands for the 13 states and the federation of Malaysia. The dark blue colour represents the unity of the people, while yellow is the royal colour of the Malay Rulers.

It is obvious then, that the PROTON logo is inspired by the Malaysian flag. And this comes as no surprise, for the nation used the car company as a way to instill national pride. Thus choosing a logo that represents the nation made perfect sense.

The Present PROTON logo

Present PROTON logoIn the mid 90s, PROTON revamped its line of car models and underwent an image change. The models covered a wider range and boasted of more accessories and knick knacks. In a glitzy event, the public was introduced to the new range of cars, along with the new PROTON logo.
The new logo boasts of a stylized tiger head, with the words PROTON emblazoned boldly on top of it. The blue colour background is retained, but the yellow takes on a golden hue. To my knowledge, PROTON has not released an official explanation of this new logo but I think we can venture a guess. The tiger is an animal found in Malaysian jungles, and is also used in logos and crests in Malaysia, thus it is a suitable choice for a Malaysian logo.

The reasons behind the changes can be figured out. Firstly, the old logo was not easily understood by the export market. People could not identify with it, for it required knowledge of Malaysian history, or at least the flag to appreciate the symbolism. The use of the crescent moon itself became a weakness, as it is viewed as a religious symbol. The new logo is free of such national or religious symbolism, allowing it to be accepted by a wider audience. The use of animal motif follows other car companies such as Ferrari with their prancing pony, and of course, Jaguar, with their leaping jaguar.

It is clear that PROTON took pains to ensure that its logo would be easily recognizable, accepted and remembered when it changed it. The importance of a logo should not be underestimated, for it is first thing, and for some people, the only thing they remember about a product. PROTON has realized that and has repositioned itself to better compete in a global market. That realization can be seen through the change of its logo.

What do I think of this personally? Well, nationalism and pride is all well and good, but if we’re going to compete and survive in a competitive industry, we’ve got to play by the rules of the game. Besides, I think the present logo is more appealing overall. So a job well done to PROTON for changing with the times.

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