usa yesterday

In July, USA Today underwent a redesign. (For the rest of this blog post, I’ll try to avoid the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.)

But while we could talk alot about the news / journalism implications of the redesign and even how the print design is meant to evoke more of a web feel, I’m stuck on the new “logo” (use “airquotes”)

USA Today’s new logo — a large circle in colors corresponding to the sections — will be an infographic that changes with the news, containing a photo or image that represents key stories of the day.

This “evolving logo, but not a logo” idea was tried by AOL back in 2009.  Basic business lesson: Don’t copy AOL ideas.

While logo does not equal brand, the logo is the main visual anchor of a brand. Visual brand identity does need to evolve with the brand, but it needs to be a gradual process, not a daily one.

The USA Today’s troubles run deeper than the logo. What if hotels stopped dumping them at guests’ doors? Circulation would go down by 97%.

Seriously, the USA Today still has the same 2 major brand problems it’s had since 1982. It’s a McPaper about a mile wide and an inch deep and it’s owned by Gannett.

In the end, I guess the real reason I’m a little disappointed in the redesign because it’s no longer “delivered by satellite” (cause that’s SO high-tech).

municipal branding comes home

In many posts in the early years of this blog, I was (and still am) an ardent opponent of the idea of municipal branding. Municipal branding is the crazed idea that is sold by branding consultants to government leaders that just slapping a logo and a tagline on a location somehow makes it different.

This phenomenon has now raised its ugly head in my backyard as an area of downtown Bowling Green is now supposedly known as the milquetoast brand of “City Center“.

(The name somehow reminds me of Delta City in Robocop.  I’m also fairly sure the City Center folks in Las Vegas may have some legal questions for the downtown BG folks.)

If I may be so bold to quote myself from Brand Zeitgeist

…While visual and tactile representations like logos and colors are important, the real significance of a brand is not something that can been seen or touched.

At its most basic, a brand is a relationship between something and an individual. A brand is a promise that past performance will be an indicator of future results. A brand is shaped by a customer’s positive and negative interactions with the brand. You might see a brand as something only related to a company or other structured organization. However, anything can be a brand: a product, a service, an experience, a person.

Your brand is your most powerful asset, but it’s also an asset that you don’t really own. Branding is not developed from the top down. It’s developed from the bottom up. The consumer, not the company, dictates what the brand image is for any product. The frustrating reality of branding is that while you can provide the tools and platforms of a brand strategy, the brand actually exists only in the minds of the public, the same as the zeitgeist….

I totally concur that visual representations of a brand like logos, taglines, etc are important. They provide visual shorthand for what the brand means. But the real key to building a memorable brand is to provide positive customer experiences and build on the brand equity that is already there (downtown Bowling Green has existed since 1798).

I stand my my mantra: “Marketing is best built-in, not slapped on

brand mutiny aboard the Pequod

The basic question is: Do you know this mermaid well enough for her to carry an entire global brand?

starbucks new logo

Even though you may have seen her everyday for the past 40 years, I don’t think anyone has really noticed her. The Starbucks logo is being revamped and she’s the siren(not mermaid) who has quietly sat in the middle of their logo since 1971. But she’s now front and center. And alone without the words “starbucks” or “coffee”.

It’s a fact that logos need to be updated (or you’d still be looking at the nipples on the original woodcut version of the Siren while sipping a Caramel Macchiato).

starbucks logo evolution

But logo evolution, like all forms of brand evolution, needs to be a very slow and incremental process. I can see dropping the “coffee” out of the logo; but not the “Starbucks”. After all, Starbucks customers don’t go there for the coffee. They go there for the CUP.

In any case, it’s a treacherous time to be messing with a logo. (just ask GAP).

does not rhyme with orange

tropicana new and old packaging
Back in with the old and out with the new for Tropicana?

The whole Tropicana fiasco fascinates me. While the new image looks very modern (and generic), it turns out people don’t want trendy OJ packaging. They want to be able to quickly pick up their favorite orange juice at the grocery.

My big question is: what was broken about the “straw in the orange” look that needed fixing anyway? The straw/orange is a nearly perfect metaphor for OJ.

It never ceases to amaze me how companies trash years of brand equity and customer familiarity just because they’re tired of the way the living room furniture looks and want to remodel.

Maybe it’s because Pepsi (who owns Tropicana) got seduced by the siren song of creatives who are more concerned with image than reality. Just a few weeks ago Arnell Group CEO Peter Arnell was singing his own praises about “the work” that is now being scrapped. Of course, these are the same people who basically just did a redux of the Obama logo and then sold it to Pepsi packaged with this garbage.

Most everybody is laying the flop at the feet of the brand team. But let’s not foget the other glaring failure of this Tropicana incident: the research. This move was run by the focus groups and had extensive market research. But then again, so was New Coke.

no such thing as bad press?

Marketing Tip — Always put your logo on the buoyant end of the plane.


btw– Supposedly this was the first pic of the event taken from an iPhone and immediately uploaded to Twitter using Twitpic. The MSM then interviewed the citizen journalist nearly a half hour after he broke the story.

Other reports say that Sean Connery was standing near the crash mumbling something about Charlemagne and armies of rocks and trees and the birds in the sky.

hey taxi!

Sometimes the product IS the logo. If you’re lucky enough to be caught in that position, don’t mess with it. But bureaucracy is not that smart.

In what is a sure fire example of the crap that can be produced by committee, New York has unveiled a logo for New York taxis.

new york city taxi logo
Never mind that the logo is not needed. They went the extra step to make it hideous.

How can you use three typefaces in only seven characters?

Am I in Boston? Why is the Boston T symbol showing up in the middle?

And as one commenter on a New York Times blog wrote — “it looks like someone used a dime-store stencil.”

The sad part about the whole logo is that it probably started as a good one since the original ideas came from Smart Design, the same group that puts together the smooth designs of Oxo proucts. But, as Tim Manners posted on Reveries, — “Rather than settling on one idea, the committee decided to go with all of them.”

Several more problems are outlined in this New York Times blog post along with commentary and alternative designs from some smart designers.

No Go Logo

There’s been quite a bit of online conversation and critique about the 2012 Olympic logo.

Great comments from Hugh who was actually there when it was unveiled.

And Seth had some great advice for people who speak jargon-ese to detract from the fact that they just ripped you off. And he really hit the nail on the head with a post about logos in general.

Here’s the thing — Advertising and graphic design are subjective. I personally don’t like this logo. Maybe you do. And criticism like this is going to happen all day in these fields.

But what does need to be considered is the big picture. So maybe you don’t like the color or the font, but will it help gain market share?

I had a client a few years ago who hired me to develop a marketing plan for his company. I discovered that while he was balking at my plans and my fees, he had paid a branding company an outlandish fee to come up with a logo and name for the company. And this happens all the time. Too many times, business strains at the gnat and swallows the camel when it comes to marketing. Spend your marketing dollars on the tires and engine of marketing — not on the upholstery and the radio.

It’s true that you need a good logo. And you don’t need to go the cheap route with it or try to do it yourself with clipart and MS Word. But you also don’t need to shell out $800,000 for anything that could easily be emailed to you.

The truest test is that if your graphic identity is giving people epileptic seizures as the 2012 Olympic one apparently is, perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

BONUS::It seems the British people could have done a better job. If you take out the photo-based ones, 2012 logos done by BBC News readers here and here are pretty good. (of course, that’s my subjective opinion)

Same Bat Time : Same Bat ?

Quick.

What’s wrong with this billboard?
(Other than the fact that they make a weird couple.)

You’d think a TV station would know something about advertising. But, you’d be wrong.

Forgetting one detail makes the entire thing useless.

Maybe the dog knows what channel it’s on.

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