Breaking Up is Hard To Do: Letting Go of Your Logo

Recently, I sold my shares in a business I founded, to my partner, Shaftesbury, a leading production company.

We had to update a 30-year-old brand to include the new and growing business of branded entertainment. If you’ve ever been through a branding exercise, you know it’s tough – we worked for days on our brand essence, our shared beliefs, emotional drivers, product attributes and functional benefits to help position ourselves in this highly competitive market. The debates got heated, as they should; we were defining how this brand would grow in a highly competitive and disruptive business. Yet somehow, when the new logo arrived, it became the focus of our efforts.

We have all been there. This exercise is repeated again and again in marketing meetings around the world. You have spent time and created great work that reflects your brand values and how your brand can make a difference in people’s lives, and when you sit down to share your content the first thing your CMO will say is, “the logo isn’t big enough, the logo needs to appear sooner, it’s too close to those other logos.” They become vigilant about the logo.

One of my clients was telling me about quantitative research they conducted in an effort to determine awareness of a brand’s name and logo. Perceptions of the brand’s current logo proved to communicate the brand’s functional benefits, but there was a lack of understanding of what the brand stood for. It was seen as “generic,” subliminal in some ways, like “muzak”. The brand wasn’t communicating its emotional benefits or a compelling and differentiated positioning to help drive preference over its competitors. They were missing the value of the brand.

We have lost sight of the importance of the values and stories of a brand in favour of a logo. We are practicing helicopter marketing! Like helicopter parents who smother their children, creating a cohort of young adults who struggle to deal with changes in their lives, brands are being smothered by the need for logo first, resulting in their stunted brand development. At a time when traditional advertising is losing impact, especially with a younger consumer, helicopter marketing can have long-term effects on the health of your brand, including:

A lack of brand independence.

With the rise of influencers, rating and review sites, other people will now be telling your brand story. You won’t be there to position your logo or convey your brand attributes; the brand has to be able to stand on its own and have confidence that the true brand story will be told.

Learning from mistakes.

Never have we seen such disruption in the consumers’ path to purchase. Limiting opportunities to practice and learn important skills and best practices will stunt the growth of brands who will struggle to keep up with the massive change required to get the attention of an audience.

Low brand worth.

Your brand has only a second to make an impression; the logo is only a symbol, the real connection is the value your brand brings to its potential buyer. A recent study by Wunderman found that in the U.S., "79 percent of respondents said they only consider buying products from brands that show they care and understand their consumers." The logo alone can’t do that!

Many brands conceptually understand that the audience needs to come first – they are not tuning in to see your brand. But how do you take a back seat when you are paying for the content? How do you increase awareness of your product if the consumer can’t see your logo, let alone how you position your brand?

In 2014, we were hired by U by Kotex® to find a way to connect to young women 18-24, a demo that is blocking ads and cutting cable in record numbers. The challenge: reach this demo in a category that has strong competition from a legacy brand (once a woman has found a fem hygiene product that she trusts, she is typically not willing to try a new product). U by Kotex® launched in 2010 with a video called Reality Check that made fun of the way traditional tampon advertising talked to women about their period. The video was fun and relatable, just like the brand’s colourful packaging and black box. However, trust - a key benefit that was needed in order to convert users - takes time to establish, and one-off videos and ad campaigns are expensive.

Our suggestion was to create an ongoing story in the tradition of TV soap operas with great characters, story arcs and cliff-hangers. We told the brand they had to take a back seat; the brand had to come last. In fact, we were not going to mention them by name, have product placement or include a “brought to you by” until we had developed an audience. Enter Carmilla, a broody vampire, and 3 seasons and 80M views later we have a global fandom. However, for the first 17 episodes we never once mentioned the brand or had product placement. Rather, we offered the audience this great content that they fell in love with and couldn’t wait for the next episode – and it was funded by a brand.

During episode 18, we released the name of the brand and the fans went out in record numbers to personally thank U by Kotex®. The agency and the brand were not prepared for the onslaught of praise including women wearing crowns and necklaces of U by Kotex® tampons. Post research also found that there was 94% unaided brand recall in conjunction with the series. Keep in mind there is not one logo or reference to tampons or pads in any of these episodes. The brand allowed the story to come first and brand last, resulting in a last