You Get What You Pay For: Why Logo Contests Disappoint

The latest example in a long line of backlashes against logo contests is making waves, or in this case, shaking leaves. This one comes from the Government of Canada who invited submissions to mark the 150th anniversary celebrations of the country. The winning design is a multi-coloured, pointed maple leaf shape that has produced interesting criticism.

It is not because the leaf is a safe, smart bet given it is an image that Canada “owns” along with Mounties, beavers and canoes rather the disapproval comes from the professional design community. The Graphic Designers of Canada, the national body that certifies graphic and communication designers, released an open letter criticizing the government and specifically Canadian Heritage who championed the contest. Their chief concerns involve exploitation and the government’s inability to recognize the value of good design.



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What’s the Story?

Telling Tales: Using Narrative Psychology in Branding

Let me tell you a story. It’s a bit about our past. A bit about our future but more importantly, it concerns what is happening right now. It is also a story that nears 2,500 words because our complex world cannot be dumbed downed, reduced to a vague tagline, summed in a 140 character tweet, or captured in an oversimplified to-do list. True learning and understanding requires time and effort so heat the kettle or uncork a bottle and enjoy. Lastly, it was a dark and stormy night…

With that compelling lead-in, we hope you will read our entire paper on the evolution of storytelling in branding and marketing. Get it here SC_Storytelling.


Ad Agencies Make Their Own Products

I recall the 1999 attention-getting idea by Vancouver agency Rethink. The three leaders of the agency had just left Palmer Jarvis DDB to go out on their own. In order to create buzz for their startup they branded and distributed Rethink Beer. The product helped put Rethink on the map and remained on shelves until 2003.

This is one example in a longstanding series of agency experiments with product development. A new book by Leif Abraham, with an amazingly long title, suggests how Madison Avenue needs to change. His effort is called, Madison Valley: Building Digital Products. Getting the Most out of Talent. And How Madison Avenue Can Be More like Silicon Valley, which is a fine preview of the book’s content. The overriding premise is creative businesses should not restrict themselves to communications but should leverage their talents for real product innovation.

Having worked at, and for, a number of agencies, I know these businesses would love to reap the profits of an iPod or Nike FuelBand as additional revenue or to stave off the long anticipated lower margins resulting from an old business model. Yet, Abraham points out the reality, “Every agency wants to build a lab and make products. Every award show adds product innovation categories. But we haven’t yet seen a successful product coming out of an ad agency. My book gives an analysis on how product innovation is treated in agencies today, what needs to change and why it’s about more than just the product.” Read more

The Missing Element of Branding

The belief that people are loyal to brands is coming under increasing fire. I have been privileged to witness and contribute to brand loyalty’s fascinating evolution. Now a new study and article in Harvard Business Review from Christof Binder and Dominique M. Hanssens, Why Strong Customer Relationships Trump Powerful Brands, gives the topic fresh context and sets up intriguing questions as to where branding’s value and investment is heading.

Historically, branding has been deployed with the same intent as advertising. That is, create awareness, prompt trial, and encourage adoption. For the last twenty years or so branding has largely been used as Tom Peters identified, “as a sorting device.” The overriding goal of branding in this period was to make a company, product or service stand out. “Top-of-mind” was thought to lead to a disproportionate “share of wallet”.

Loyalty has always been inferred in branding. If one was delivering a brand that matched the value, beliefs and practices of certain consumers it was believed those people would be loyal to the brand. This gave way to the term ‘brand evangelists’ which has been overused and never properly defined (or delineated from word-of-mouth). Through this period, practitioners like myself largely subscribed to Philip Kotler’s four types of loyal consumers:

Hard-core Loyals: those who buy the same brand consistently

Split Loyals: those loyal to two or three brands

Shifting Loyals: those who move from one brand to another

Switchers: those with no loyalty

There has been great debate on the erosion of brand loyalty. It has already produced a new term that I find entertaining, “consumer promiscuity”. At first, this promiscuity was driven 1ad9e82f-213a-40d3-8731-7f063269550d-mediumby consumers interested in finding a better price or deal elsewhere. Now this brand philandering takes place any time consumers believe their complex wants and needs are not being met. This relates to another new marketing term (we marketers love to name things) and that is, “chameleon consumers”. These consumers defy traditional segmentation (on a side note…most marketers today are terrible at segmentation). Chameleons are hard to read and hard to please making it difficult for brands to hold onto them.

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Looking Back on Mad Men

Our paper originally appeared in The Agency Post, Marketing, and Sparksheet. It was also featured on Flipboard in Advertising.

As the last season winds down, Mad Men is being examined for its impact on television and its reflection of society both in the period it is set and our current day. We invite you to enjoy this work which is rife with observations, insights and images that will delight fans of the show, pop culturists, history buffs, along with all those who enjoy marketing and advertising.

Get it here … SC_LookingBackonMadMen