Monday, January 7, 2019

So goes Logos.

Just before so many New York agencies closed for the period between Christmas and the New Year, Adweek, the musty superfluity of emptiness, misdirection and pointless trivia published an article that took vapid to new heights, or depths.

(BTW, without tooting my own horn, I'd wager that Bob Hoffman's "Ad Contrarian," Rich Siegel's "Roundseventeen," Dave Trott's two blogs, Dave Dye's "Stuff from the Loft," and "Ad Aged," my own modest organ, wield more influence than Adweek. For one, we actually write about the reality of the industry. Second, we're inside the industry--and veterans of it. For my dime, collectively, we're more relevant and informative than the aforementioned Adweek.)

In any event, Adweek published an article, "The Ten Biggest Brand Revamps of 2018."  You can, if you have a high tolerance for the banal, read the whole thing here.

The short of it is that Adweek is doing (once again) what so many in our business do with infuriating regularity. They conflate an adjustment of a logo--a color choice, a type-face, a design--with the revamping of a brand.

This so misses the point of what it means to be a brand that if Adweek had offices with a plate-glass window, I'd likely feel the urge to throw a brick through it.

In their article, they discuss ten logo redesigns. As if a logo redesign materially changes anything about a company.

For instance, they talk about Lippincott's redesign of the god-awful Toys R Us logo. Of course, Lippincott's efforts were for naught. Toys R Us went belly-up before the logo was unveiled. 

The question is this, did Toys R Us change anything that led to their eventual bankruptcy, or just a logo? Because a logo, not fortified by a set of beliefs and well-communicated and adhered-to behaviors, means very little.

A revamped logo without revamping a brand can be best-thought of as lipstick on a pig. And an ugly pig at that.

For me, the prime example of this is the new logo of Bank of America. For those who read the papers--and who were paying attention during the Global Economic Meltdown of just ten years ago, Bank of America was one of the world's main perpetrators of predatory and illegal financial practices. My two cents says if we had a functioning Federal Government not beholden to the interests of consolidated capital, most of Bank of America's senior employees would be wearing, in the parlance of Jimmy Cagney, striped pajamas in the Big House.

I suppose there are things Bank of America could do to make-good for their many malfeasances. (Above the $76 billion they were fined--nearly double what JPMorgan Chase was fined.) But a redesigned logo is way down on my list of compensatory behaviors.

The senior management of Bank of America, instead of revamping their brand via a feckless new logo, could trade-in their $4,000 Brioni suits for instance. And begin wearing outfits more appropriate.

I've nothing against logos. But spending time and money on a new logo without changing reality is like hiring a new executive chef, giving her keys to the kitchen and twenty pounds of manure to craft into something palatable. To my mind, tinkering with a logo, even if you make significant improvement to that logo, is the apotheosis of Sir John Hegarty meant when he said that "advertising has retreated to the fringes."

We no longer deal with the central marketing problems of our times. We no longer touch people emotionally, or, even, impart useful consumer information in executionally brilliant ways. No. We round corners, mute colors, find deep meaning in a design affectation or a ligature.

As an industry we hope to double-speak our way back to relevance. But geographically, and semiotically, we are every day shunted further and further from Madison Avenue--that is the center of American business.

It's this simple.

Important is important. 

And shit is shit.

And shit with a nice logo is just well-decorated shit.

It's time people knew this.

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