Flexible logos and the Face of the Brand

The New York Times reports on a trend: "adaptable logos." These are logos that are capable of holding or being meshed with other content. Examples are:
  • the logo of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which is flexible enough to allow Olympic sponsors to put their own "brand symbols or colors" into it, "in effect creating logos within the logo of the Games."
  • The New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan, which is using an adaptable logo to proclaim that it has a new address.

This adaptable logo thing is a big deal, says the Times, because "companies [normally] employ armies of people to make sure the color, shape and placement of a logo never vary."

Well, with too much control, people become distanced from the brand--it's cold.

The idea of an adaptable logo is not new. The Times points out that Google "has long been playing with its basic logo." So has Target.

What the Times does not mention is that for a number of years at The Brand Consultancy, Diane Beecher pioneered something called the "Face of the Brand" -- a methodology for brand design that allows for flexibility in its visual depiction. "It's a single graphic or series of graphics--of three or more primary brand attributes that work together." (me, Design Management Institute Journal)

Beecher says that "FOTB is the total visual representation that supports a brand and its attributes. It is unmistakably personal, representing the unique attributes of one particular brand, and takes every visual factor into account."

I've written that "the overall effect is one of a consistent corporate ID, but the sameness is like that of a family--individual members may look alike, but like snowflakes, no two are the same."

I think adaptable logos, like the Face of the Brand, are a good brand idea. As the Times reports: "In the era of blogging, social networking and mash-ups — through which consumers have the power to do what they want with a company’s logo and show it to the world — a bit of flexibility is essential, Mr. Heiselman said."

Adaptable logos/FOTB invite the viewer into the brand's world, to see the brand as a living, dynamic entity rather than a cold, unfeeling, unthinking, inflexible piece of deadness.

And deadness is not appealing.

Branding Belfast - an interesting situation

The Belfast Telegraph reports on Belfast's new branding initiative. A couple of interesting things here:

1. The dilemma over how Belfast should be branded - as a generic tourist attraction (the fantasy) or as a more complex site of political conflict (the reality)? Which will make the most money? "Much as we would like to put the Troubles well behind us, it has to be accepted that they are Belfast's top selling point in any campaign. People have heard about us, all over the world, because of our historic quarrels - and the queues for open-top bus tours of the Falls and Shankill are proof of their curiosity value."

2. The problem over accommodating local feelings as a new image is crafted: "With so much about the past that is still in dispute, the marketing team will have to be sensitive to local feelings, as they portray Belfast to the world. To most people, the fact that it is both British and Irish is a plus point, but getting this across without treading on too many toes will be difficult - as will be the concept of a 24-7 city."

3. The development of a site where anyone can vote on how Belfast should be branded. "The views of anyone with access to a computer are being sought - on www.yourviewsonbelfast.com - to find out what people think of the capital city and how it can put on its best foot forward."

We can learn a few things from these elements.
  • The thing that you want to emphasize in the brand may not be what is marketable to your target audience. Are you mature enough to recognize that and overcome it?
  • On a related note, the things they want out of the brand might generate sensitivity--e.g., might even hurt your feelings. You have to be ready for that and determine how much of a factor your feelings will be in making brand decisions.
  • One way to approach this is to open your campaign up to voting on the Internet to provide objective research-based data for use in making decisions. This can mitigate potential hurt feelings as well as avert misdirection, as image decisions become a matter of responding to the public rather than determining a direction based on political or "gut" considerations.

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