Even the Wells Fargo & Co. stagecoach is not sacred.

The company debates every decade or so whether to swap its trademark image for a contemporary, abstract one.

Its competitors in California have also turned to logo makeovers to build recognition or update their public images.

Bank of the West, for instance, turned just 10 years ago to a classic California icon, the brown bear, in developing a logo, signage and marketing material.

"Over the years the company changed its logo frequently, but those changes tended to be more evolutionary than revolutionary," said Robert Raye, senior vice president and director of marketing. "At the time, we said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have a marque? … Wouldn't it be nice to have a stagecoach?' "

Across town, the pre-merger BankAmerica Corp. for a while used the image of the U.S.S. Portsmouth, which is closely identified with the establishment of San Francisco.

In the late 1980s BankAmerica used an eagle, which played off the bank's patriotic name while suggesting speed and strength. You had to squint to see that the eagle symbol was formed from the letters "BA" wedged together.

Though the Bank of America name has survived the NationsBank merger, with slight variation, the eagle image has been replaced by a more abstract red, white, and blue logo. "Our message today is definitely where we are and where we are headed" rather than where the company came from, said Peter Magnani, a spokesman.

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