Tuesday, April 23, 2024



Why is this combination minimart and purveyor of cheeseburgers, fries and frozen dairy treats aspiring to cure cancer?

Surely from the cheery, rounded bright red and white logo with McDonald’s-like rounded arches we can assume a simple menu and maybe – to shop among while you’re waiting for the blender to mix in your toppings – a few shelves with Doritos, Slim Jims and Jolly Ranchers? And maybe a change jar on the counter where your pennies and dimes go toward cancer research?

No, this is the Osaka, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical, which consumed Cambridge’s Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 2008. It has 31,225 employees and made about $17 billion in sales as of May, according to Forbes. The company’s history goes back to 1781, though it was established formally as a company in 1915.

This is a company with resources. So why the comically inept logo?

Takeda Pharmaceutical’s “Embracing Mountains” mark lasted from 1781 to 1898.

Takeda Pharmaceutical’s “Embracing Mountains” mark lasted from 1781 to 1898.

Probably because this logo (specified on the company’s extensive website as being for “overseas use”) dates back to 1961 – only the company’s fourth logo over the past 233 years, and supposedly an update of its initial “Embracing Mountains” mark.

“They have bought seemingly all of the available advertising space – that is, all our ‘public,’ visible space a public agency, the MBTA, in their wisdom, are willing to sell to buyers of corporate graffiti,” resident James Williamson said in an email to “Friends of Central Square” in October, noting that the company’s Actos drug has been linked with causing cancer, rather than curing it.

He also paired the Takeda logo with one from Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Fifty-plus years is enough time with a logo, and six years is long enough for Takeda to figure out that they’ve had this logo too long. Or that they need a better burger.

Update on Nov. 25, 2014: Reader Steven Nutter applied his Photoshop skills to an image of IBM’s Watson food truck (serving at this year’s South by Southwest music and technology festival) to show what it would look like if Takeda embraced its logo destiny:


The original image is on Flickr.