"Changing such an iconic logo can come with risks, particularly if the alterations are dramatic enough to cause customers to not recognize the brand identity," said Michael Barone, a professor of marketing at the University of Louisville. Other long-standing brands, such as Ivory, Betty Crocker and Harley-Davidson, have successfully made small logo changes over the years, Barone said.
"When you've been in the market that long, consumers may start to think you are not as contemporary or relevant as you really are," Barone said. "A logo could signal something new. It helps get attention back to a mature brand."
The company is rolling out the new logo with a "What Mark Will You Leave?" campaign on its website, Facebook page and Twitter account.
To John Hillerich, the logo change and launch on Opening Day fits well with the future he sees for the company, a path that takes it into deeper ties with baseball. Along with bats, the new logo will appear on equipment bags, catcher equipment and gloves.
Eventually, the logo could appear on apparel and other items, possibly even pop-up stores or restaurants, Hillerich said.
"Could you take that on the road?" he asked. "Those decisions are five to 10 years out, depending on how you grow the company."