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Friday, January 28, 2011

NBC Universal: Did Logo Jealousy Destroy The Brand?

Look at this. What is this?
NBC Universal's fantastic, famous logo, post-acquisition by Comcast, is now reduced to the corporate "brand" above. (Really it's a wordmark.)

I can't understand the decision from a branding perspective so it must be that politics and culture wars led the corporate brand NBC Universal down the path that ultimately led to the forgettable thing above.

Previously, NBC had a logo that anybody would kill for.

Post-acquisition by Comcast - which may be a financial powerhouse but is an extraordinarily un-memorable company - the corporate brand is similarly dull. I think I could have made it up in about an hour on my desktop.


While it's true that the classic bird is staying on the broadcasting side of the brand, and the spinning globe will remain at the theme parks, the overarching message is one of - wait - there is no overarching message. No emotion. Nothing. It's just a mega-merger with an identity-less monolith "brand" sitting at the top of the heap.


The difference between NBC and Comcast is passion. NBC is "proud as a peacock." Working for NBC was being part of a cause, a tradition, a history that meant you were somebody special. It was Seinfeld's network, for gosh sake.

Comcast, in contrast, is the type of company where you work because it's "just a job." A good job, perhaps, but "just a job." No emotion, no nothing, just a money making machine.


As the Associated Press reports, employees were treated to the following odd justification for the wordmark: "We aren't a family of two favorite sons, rather one filled with talented people and companies all tied for first."


Huh? This is a brand decision, not a family therapy session where the newly formed stepfamily takes a hyphenated last name so they can all live in the same home in peace.


The so-called business justification for the wordmark is that much-abused word, "synergy." As the Associated Press states: "The new corporate bosses talked about looking for opportunities for synergy, not just among NBC Universal properties...but with technology advanced by Comcast."


To me this sounds exactly like what happens in bad relationships, when one partner is jealous of the other and pushes them to behave more dully so that they don't feel so insecure.


Maybe in the short-term Comcast feels victorious by taking NBC down a notch. But in the long term this decision will have a negative effect on the combined company's brand equity. Smarter would have been to own the company while leveraging, and showing off, its brand brilliance.


In the end, brands can be changed. But what this decision shows is a lack of objectivity. And that is dangerous. A business has to be willing to use its assets regardless of whether it hurts some people's feelings. Rather than try to make everybody into one miserable mishmash, I would have opted for a solution that gave each subbrand as much independence as possible, until there was some real synergy to build on.