Monthly Archives: June 2009

1 A lesson on the importance of logos – from summer camp.

Roll up the sleeping bag. Pack the bug spray and the spf 30. It’s time for camp… an annual summer ritual, for parents and kids alike.

Summer-Camps-HomeEvery year, when I part with my kids for two weeks, the memories come flooding back. Like the lyrics of my favorite old campfire song…

There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a hole, there’s a hole, there’s a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a frog on the knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a wart on the frog on the knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a hair on the wart on the frog on the knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a germ on the hair on the wart on the frog on the knot on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

What’s that silly old song have to do with branding?

The germ on the hair on the wart on the frog is your logo. Its just one, eentsy part of a much bigger branding effort.

Don’t let any graphic designer tell you differently.

I love great design work. I’ve been collaborating with designers and art directors my entire career, and it’s often fun and rewarding work. But a new mark does not constitute a “branding effort.”

Many design firms and branding companies go to great lengths to deliver a new mark and type treatment. They’ll do research that proves you need a new logo, and they’ll devise extravagant reasoning for their graphic solution. But that’s as far as it goes. All the other components of branding — the bigger issues — are left to the client to handle.

From a broader, business perspective, logo design is but a speck on the pimple of that frog. So if you’re a designer designing logos, do your thing. By all means. Just don’t sell it as something more than it really is.

And if you’re a client, don’t kid yourself. That expensive new logo isn’t going to make up for mediocrity in other departments, like customer service. It’s not going to plug the gaping hole in your operations or compensate for a crummy, me-too product.

Actions speak louder than logos. It’s what you do as a company, and what you believe in, that make a brand. Not just how your logo looks reversed out of a dark background.

So if you’re thinking of redesigning your logo, I suggest you look a little deeper. Take the opportunity to assess every aspect of your business, and ask yourself this? Am I seeing the bigger brand picture, or just the germ on the hair on the wart on the frog?

5 Brand differentiation. Is your message too generic?

Golf is one of those categories where brand differentiation is difficult. Clubheads are as big as they’re going to get, and every brand promises the same thing… Longer, straighter drives. High technology. And distance above all else.

This headline from a Cobra Driver ad sums it up: “Scientifically engineered for insanely long, straight drives.”

Sounds insanely generic to me. Why pay $50,000 to convey a message that applies to the entire category? You could literally insert the photo of any driver and no one would know the difference. Seems like a high price to pay for invisibility.

Apparently, even golf shoes can help us hit it farther these days. Get a load of these two he-man headlines from a recent Addidas campaign:

“Lock and load… 14 weapons in your bag. Two on your feet.”

“Not a shoe, a piece of artillery.”

The brand managers at Adidas are assuming that high tech features and a Rambo tone will sell shoes just as well as drivers. But as Spike Lee once said, “Is it the shoes? Is it the shoes? Is it the shoes?”

I think not.

Here’s what the copy says in one of those shoe ads: “Three distinct power geometry zones in the outsole for maximum energy transfer during the load phase, impact and finish.”

Here’s what consumers will say: “Yeah, but are they comfortable? Do they have them in my size? How much?” Those are things relevant to Joe sixpack.

This is a category that takes itself quite seriously, indeed. In that environment, humor can be a refreshing and effective way to differentiate your brand. Titlest did it with John Cleese for the NXT Tour golf ball. FootJoy pulled if off brilliantly with their Sign Boy campaign. It’s harder to do in print, however.

Mizuno pulled it off with a series of magazine ads poking fun at the almost obsessive loyalty of their customers. These are guys who love their clubs so much they buy an extra seat on the plane rather than checking their bags. They’re the fanatics who rehearse the golf swing while waiting in line, and consider their forged irons an unfair advantage that borders on sinful. The ads were purposely, humorously, exaggerated, but they captured the authentic passion for the brand that no competitor could claim.

mizunoMp57-extend-500x509-1Those ads would absolutely not work for any other club company. I don’t play Mizuno irons, but I aspire to. And those ads spoke to me. With a wink and a nod, Mizuno confirmed what I already thought… that their forged irons are for smart, accomplished players who know something the rest of the golf world doesn’t know.

see all of Mizuno’s ads here: http://www.mizunousa.com/news.nsf/golf?OpenForm

Sad to say, Mizuno recently dumped that campaign and started running ads that lack the market wisdom, the emotional connection and the brand personality of the old ads. In fact, the new ads are generic enough to speak for any forged iron on the market.

Successful branding involves a high degree of differentiation. It’s about having something different to say, and saying things differently. But the message also needs to be relevant. Otherwise, different doesn’t work so well.

Adidas has a unique new shoe line and an ad campaign that’s different. I’m just not sure their message is relevant for the category.

Mizuno-MX700-DriverMizuno has a unique story to tell and unprecedented brand loyalty, but they’re running a message that’s generic.

Before you ever approve a new ad campaign for your brand, try this: Take the ads and insert the name of your competitor. Then ask yourself, objectively, does the message still work? If it does, you should seriously consider starting over.

You may just need a new concept from your agency or a new creative brief. Or you might need to devise a strategic approach that deviates from the generic, industry spiel like “Scientifically engineered for insanely long, straight drives.”

Worst case, it’ll force you to look closely at the product itself. Mizuo and Adidas both have great products that are inherently different than the competition. It shouldn’t be that hard to come up with an ad campaign that communicates the product’s differences and the brand personality in a relevant manner.

If you want more branding insight, subscribe to my rss feed by clicking on the link at the top of this site. Or e-mail me directly: JohnF@BNBranding.com

1 A new spin on the Pepsi logo.

The new Pepsi logo is generating hives of buzz in branding and design circles. It’s not surprising… whenever you start messing around with one of the world’s most recognized commercial icons, people are going to talk.

image_pepsi_newcan1But it’s not like grocery carts are piling up in the beverage isle while soccer moms wax eloquent about the new design aesthetic. The general public could care less. Nope, the initial armchair quarterbacking was limited to graphic design forums and beverage industry trade pubs.

“I love it.”

“I hate it.”

“It looks like the Obama logo.”

“It’s not young enough.”

“It’s static, empty and vaguely bland.”

“It’s demonic brainwashing.”

All the usual responses to a major branding makeover. But now, since the “rationale” for the new logo is circulating on the web, the debate has taken on a viral life of its own.

The 27-page design brief entitled “Breathtaking” reads like a scientific white paper loaded with marketingese and unprecedented levels of highly creative BS. In fact, Fast Company Magazine called it branding lunacy…

“Every page of this document is more ridiculous than the last ending with a pseudo-scientific explanation of how Pepsi’s new branding identity will manifest it’s own gravitational pull.”

The L.A. Times was equally critical:

“Behold, then, the scattered and burning debris field of one of corporate America’s most misbegotten image makeovers… According to the brief, the new Pepsi logo lies along a trajectory of human consciousness that includes in its arc the Vastu Shastra, a 3,000-year-old Hindu architectural guide; Pythagoras (the Golden Section); the Roman architect Vitruvius; the Fibonacci series; Descartes; and Corbusier.”

Oooookay.

Get a load of it at: http://drop.io/pepsipdf/asset/pepsi-gravitational-field-pdf

(Kinda reminds me of the rationale used to justify an empty blue rectangle for the Nationwide Insurance Logo. But in this case, the design itself isn’t that bad.)

Maybe the controversy is what the design firm, Arnell, had in mind all along. There’s talk of the whole thing being a hoax, that Arnell created the document after the fact just to poke fun at their critics and generate media attention. If that’s the case, the stunt has backfired, big time.

The brief makes Arnell look like corporate bandits. It makes Pepsi look bad for buying into the rationale. And it discredits the entire branding industry. It’s hard enough to get c-level executives to take branding seriously, without this kind of nonsense floating around.

Great design speaks for itself. You don’t need a physics thesis to explain it. It just works.

My 11 year-old daughter likes the new Pepsi logo. (Says it makes her happy.) And now that I’ve read the exhaustive brief, I know why…

pepsi-happy-facesIt’s a smiley face! An overanalyzed, underwhelming, million dollar smiley face. It even comes in a variety of grin sizes. (Apparently regular ol’ Pepsi gets a smaller grin than the newer versions of Pepsi, like Pepsi Max. Whatever that is.)

Pepsi’s going to spend more than a billion dollars redoing all their packaging, vending machines, trucks, POP materials and everything else. The new logo’s going to be EVERYWHERE!

So I’m kinda glad Arnell changed the old wavy logo into a smiley face. I’m just not sure about their methods.

Subscribe to my rss feed and get an alert everytime I post. Coming up… more on why ad agency execs and designers just can’t shut up when presenting work.