Logos, logotypes, and trademarks have become integral to everyday life, from the pictograms used to order your lunch at Mickey Ds to finding your way to the next road trip gas stop.
This six-minute primer from the PBS Off Book series looks in on the history, tradition, and uses of a visual identity and establishes the argument for professional design versus the DIY approach that’s emerged as a result of desktop publishing empowerment.
Properly done, visual identities are a powerful marketing tool that work to fulfill an observers expectations. When that design is poorly developed, communication suffers.
I take last week’s news of Daimler’s entry into the green scooter market come 2014 as more of a solidification of their alt transport low-zero emissions SMART brand than any sudden two-wheeled epiphany. Miniscule financial risk, max pr value, and a lot of genuine utilitarian functionality backed by diamond plated quality control, first class marketing, global distribution, and built-in market affinity even though Smart car sales haven’t exactly soared as first envisioned.
How tough will it be to convince yacht sailing, pied-á-terre dwelling, polo pony riding ‘Benz owners to swipe their debit card and pick one up – I see a discreet POS gift card offering by the cashier’s window – on the way out of the dealership? Answer: not too. You’ll look in vain, by the bye, for these same folks at a local indie scooter store.
Not everyone’s convinced. This Automotive News critique after the initial 2010 announcement pans not just M-B, but the entire scooter riding universe. Oh well. For Daimler it’s almost all about reputation: expecting however many scooter sales to add significantly to the bottom line is hallucinatory. Much easier to boost profits selling Dyson cordless vacs as P&A. A rolling ev test bed, on the other hand, is not, and that’s scaleable.
Several years ago I put together an easy to follow guide that offers solutions for three of the most common errors made by DIY publicists. Since then I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of powersports announcements distributed under the hi-jacked heading of FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! So poorly constructed they’re cause to wonder if a Kazakhstan goat herder isn’t ghost writing for the crowd source marketplace, they neither inform nor promote. No offense to my herder friends.
There’s a phrase common enough to pr practitioners (hack) that’s either a label of shame or badge of some distinction, if only among peers. Without naming names – and, sadly, you probably don’t know who you are – I’m gobsmacked at what the aftermarket seems willing to accept under the guise of published, presumed to be positive, information about products, services, and events by the former.
This isn’t about the errant comma, occasional misplaced modifier, or missing apostrophe. I’m raising the alarm over the wholesale abandonment of fundamental principles of grammar, any notion of style, and the essentials of literacy. Who needs complete sentences when an odd lot assortment of disjointed words strung randomly together into incoherent phrases passes as sense.
“air quotes” run amok amid out of control malaprops
I’m usually not a hard-core stickler for AP style, but. The increasingly sloppy gibberish masquerading as product praise not only offends my professional eye, but to the point does serious damage to a manufacturer’s online reputation and in-store brand. Unless, that is, the brands footing the bill think LOL ridicule is a desirable goal.
And it’s permanent. Once published to the web, these unintentional examples of no-talent hilarity circle the internet forever, ghost ships of puff piece silliness showing up on Google search “doh!” in perpetuity.
If you can’t hire a pro – and by that I mean someone possessed of a) basic writing skills and, b) a fundamental understanding that English, not Farsi, is North America’s marketing lingua franca – please take advantage of my basic tips for improving reputation and readership.
Just noticed YouTube’s updated favicon. Cleaner? Yes. Better? No. Favicons are one of the web’s finest tiny treasures, used to impart individuality and brand identity at the most basic browser URL address level. It’s a mini-logo that IDs the site as original and authentic.
The process of favicon creation is a definite art, not just the result of taking a logo or trademark and shrinking it down to a 16 x 16 pixel square. Roughly comparable to building a sailboat in a bottle, the successful digitalization of a mark is done at the pixel level; the harsh limitations of bitmap art that will eventually live as a rasterized facsimile.
In the case of YT, it’s pretty obvious that Google is in the process of homoginizing their various properties. I never thought the original YT worked, but it was identifiable. The new favicon is simply a reskinned play button that, while cleaner, doesn’t communicate anything unique.
Here’s the thing. I don’t run marathons. I don’t run distance. Some might question – with good basis – whether what I do three times a week is more jog-trot, less run. But I wear Asics, currently 2160s, and that’s that affinity thing kicking in. And I’m a sucker for clever advertising.
So when Creativity Online shared my brand’s latest work in support of the 2011 NYC Marathon, I thought hey, my 5K training routine measures miles in single digits, but they’re still miles, regardless. It wasn’t until Ryan Hall’s stride was revealed – are you kidding me! – the same stride that carried him to the fastest marathon ever run by an American (2:04:58), that I got the memo: you’ll never be that good. But I can wear the shoes, and for me, it gets me out the door and on the trail. So see you in the park, maybe. Running just like Ryan, only slower.
In 1999 I graduated from a comfortably traditional chrome and fabric no instructions needed Steelcase to a revolutionary and slightly intimidating Aeron Christmas present after a test-sitting at the local Herman Miller showroom. This after the realization that my future did not include a drawing board and the transition to full digital was complete.
I didn’t give much thought to warranty coverage at the time. As daily use stretched well into the aughts, however, I started wondering if there was a Herman Miller policy for repairing wear and tear over time.
A Google search quickly turned up warranty details – all out in the open, displayed in large print and written in language anyone can understand. Turns out, their warranty covers parts and labor for 12 years, up from the original 10, from the date of purchase.
How Can We Help You? When A Brand Values Their Reputation
First, when you purchase an Aeron, there’s not one whisper about shelling out for an additional “extended care” warranty. And even though Office Pavilion, the original dealer, no longer serves my region, their replacement, Workplace Resource of Florida, didn’t miss a beat.
My simple email request for info was quickly answered with the necessary (minimal) paperwork attached: a warranty request form that asked for only basic information, mainly the proof of purchase serial number and birth date, both on the chair as shown in the top photo.
I filled it out, waited for a response, and two days later I was in business. No beat down, no obfuscating. Their response in totality: you’ve got a problem, and we’ll fix it.
One month later, I got a phone call from the tech to confirm the repairs, which would be performed onsite. Granted, the chair’s not cheap, but I’d assumed that for a piece of nearly 12-years-old well used furniture, whatever coverage I had coming would be carried out after drop-off to the nearest point-of-sale for the six to eight weeks necessary to complete repairs.
No User Parts Accessible? None
Bob the Tech showed up as promised, on schedule, wheeling in his portable work bench, toolbox, and a couple of cartons of repair parts. An hour later I had what essentially was a completely rebuilt chair. And not just the visible wear and tear that’s bound to occur over a decade of daily use, either. My Aeron rehab visited every nook and cranny of my well used furniture.
Red tape? None. Superior service? Yes. Brand reputation? Polished to a blinding brilliance. Thanks, Herman Miller, for designing, marketing, and standing behind a best-in-class product. If you visit the web site, and I hope you do, please enjoy the reference to design integrity in the making of video on the Aeron home page.
News out this morning from Ad Age has Harley’s media planning/buying to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom (first globally in media buying – new adds include Darden Group, Best Buy) while doing a 180 and casting their creative future with newcomer Victors & Spoils following Carmichael Lynch’s ship jumping last August after 30 years of mostly hidebound (“screw it – lets ride”, jeans over boots) treatment. At the same time, Publicis shop Digitas is greenlighted for digital, a too long neglected portal. Continue reading →
HD’s still looking for new directions out of the forest of consumer walk-on-by it’s lost in. Media Post’s industry pub Marketing Daily delivers details of TMC’s latest Maxim-ized efforts aimed at winning back share, on the back (figuratively speaking) of spokesperson/model/rider Marissa Miller.
Sigh… I get it. Dangle eye candy in front of viewers, Pavlovian response goes off, reader imagines she’s showering with him, wife’s ok with that, then he’s lickity split off to the dealer where he rite’s dat check before the steam evaporates.
But – but – it’s the chik riding the bike! By herself! And fem biker-ettes need men like fish need bicycles. Meanwhile, the campaign theme “Start Something” indicates an exhaustive naming session that apparantly sailed right past “Hey, What’s Up?” as an inspired call to action.
The image problem remains the bike line, not the actors. The communications problem remains. Period.
The sticker on the hood of this back from the grave Chevy isn’t a wasabi Rorschach test. It’s a QR code, which, when you snap a shot of same with your ever-present smart phone, will transport you to a mini-site where you can see the exact same vehicle you’re looking at in 3D, only a lot smaller and in 2D.
Not a good trade you say? Ha! Start swapping out options and accessories to get a brain bolt as to just how you’d set up profiling down the boulevard in a ride of your own. That’s what Chevy cooked up for their social media experiment March 12-15th at SXSWi in Austin, TX. Continue reading →
There’s talk over in LinkedIn’s public relations groups about Toyota’s handling – or mishandling – of their disasterous recall performance. I posted the following comment earlier in the week on the subject, surprised that nearly two weeks after first announcing a recall there’d been so little actual hard reporting on the massive problem.
As of today, I don’t think it’s too soon to begin speculating on their eventual rebranding. That’s if they survive the other shoes waiting to drop. But first, time to rethink the rush to dismiss the importance of brand in the oceanic swell of social media first. If you’re a marketeer, it will always be about brand.
After the surprising – from a Western perspective – initial non-response, followed by the tepid release announcing Sunday’s ad that was itself the sound of one hand clapping, I’m wondering if… Continue reading →