The New Logo ALWAYS Sucks: Consumers Hate Change

Okay, the new Gap log did suck.  But EVERY new logo design ALWAYS kicks off a spate of negative logo reviews, and many new logos don’t suck. Crowd sourcers beware: consumers hate change.

Google “New Starbucks” logo, and you’ll see page after page of negative reviews.  Negative response to change has always existed. That social media magnifies the negativity doesn’t mean that initial dislike signals a brand disaster. If every company making a logo change backs off when hit with inevitable Gap-like criticism, no brands will ever visually improve and great design will cease to exist.

Anyone who has tested new names or logos in a focus group knows the dynamic: when people are faced with something new and different, they recoil. Companies that back off change because of that knee-jerk reaction totally miss the point of doing something different. If you want to attract attention, convey a new message, become memorable, you have to unsettle people. In my naming practice, I know that names people like are names within the comfort zone. They are familiar, known, and understood–and totally the wrong choice for a winning brand. The same is true for logo designs. The best creative choice for a name or a logo is the idea that makes people stop and say, “whoa!”

When choosing a new logo, you want to get the associations right. Don’t ask non-designers to evaluate the art. You’ll get as many people saying “it’s too simple” as you will get saying “it’s too busy”. Dive past the inevitable superficial negatives and get to the specific feelings: “What does this logo make you think about?”

New Big Ten LogoFor a logo to become “liked” or even “loved” takes time. As Michael Bierut writes in the Fast Company review of the immediately much hated new Big Ten logo: “But let’s remember that the previous Big Ten logo, which fans now absolutely love, also met with resistance when it was first introduced twenty years ago.”

For the record, regarding the Starbucks redesign:  The new logo is great. But the ability of a new logo to move that company beyond coffee is negligible. Starbucks has spent over a decade trying to be coffee + something more and has failed. The new logo won’t fix that problem.

Brands: Fight WikiPanic By Being WikiReady

Wikipanic—it’s the new word for the latest marketing threat. What will happen to your brand if Wikileaks attacks it? As Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, and Bank of America are finding out, marketers need to be ready in advance of disaster, whether a plane crash, an oil well explosion or a wikileak/hacktivist attack. Companies can’t risk a wikipanic. They need to be wikiready.

Wikileaks Logo
Wikileaks Logo

The New York Times is reporting that Bank of America was threatened by Julian Assange with a promise to bring them down and expose “the ecosystem of corruption.” The company is trying to get a jump on the crisis by finding out where they are exposed, how they are exposed, and what will be exposed. Their expensive counterespionage team is conducting a massive document review, investigating every lost, stolen, or missing computer, and crafting a security, operational, and brand reputation response. What should you do to be wikiready for a Wikileaks attack?

Don’t Be Evil

Google’s informal corporate motto may be derided, but it is one everyone should adopt. Even before Wikileaks, our “information wants to be free” world had become too transparent for companies, governments, executives and politicians to have a realistic expectation that their actions can stay hidden. The days when a president like FDR could keep his wheelchair secret or a senator like Chris Dodd could conceal his sweetheart Countryside mortgage deal are long gone. Task one for companies seeking protection from a Wikileaks-type assault is to avoid doing anything that would be embarrassing or damaging when made public (not if). Know that someone is always watching.

Fix The Problem First

If Wikileaks is going to reveal something damaging, fix it. Too many marketing and public relations people go into damage control mode, controlling damage to a brand reputation before fixing what is causing the damage. This kind of response is worse than counter-productive. BP doubled-down on the harm to its brand by trying to protect its reputation while the oil spewed. Focus on fixing the problem, not on minimizing the problem or on issuing defensive message. Honesty and transparency can be painful, but brands that respond this way do bounce back. Admit, apologize, atone–and don’t do it again. People won’t forget, but they will forgive.

The Bigger the Brand the Bigger the Target

Last week, I wrote on the expanding role of brands. No longer are they strictly commercial expressions. Brands are increasingly co-opted for larger economic, social and political debates. If you have a powerful brand, be ready for that power to get turned against you. Big brands are highly vulnerable to security breaches from:

  • Lost laptops or laptops left in places where others could quickly download information to a portable hard drive while you are out getting coffee
  • Data sent to outsiders by disgruntled employees—or customers
  • Data in the hands of outsiders who may not protect it adequately (Bank of America’s data may have escaped from the documents given to the Securities and Exchange Commission, congressional investigators and the New York attorney general’s office, though those organizations naturally deny it)
  • Old fashioned hacking–like the coordinated cyber-attack on 2500 companies in 196 countries that began back in 2008 and continued for years (finally revealed publicly in February 2010)
  • DNS attacks that can bring down a Web site like Mastercard’s
  • Co-opting of a brand to make a political statement (think McMansions or Disneyification)

Be Ready

If you have a valuable brand, digital vandalism, a wikileaks assault, or cyber-attack is a matter of when, not if. Have your communications infrastructure in place and operating. USAir and Continental didn’t seem to know how to use Facebook or Twitter before or immediately after their plane crashes. BP used one-way corporate-speak on Twitter and Facebook and were more than one step behind on YouTube.

Web Video: How-To Advice

Web pundits are predicting continuing growth in Web video. With that in mind, here is a round-up of advice for producing effective video:

1) Light your shot—dark videos don’t invite eyes
2) Get the best sound you can—your viewers are likely listening through headphones
3) Use a tripod for Pete’s sake!!—You want to make visitors stick, not get sick
4) Script and plan your story before you shoot—planning is what makes a video interesting and worth the viewers’ time (which is harder to earn and even harder to keep)
5) Shorter is better—think TV commercial not TV show, 30 seconds is better than 30 minutes
6) Talking heads are boring—get other shots and work them into your story
7) Don’t forget Web video needs the written word—when you post on YouTube, Facebook, even your own site, you will need a title, brief description, and keywords.
8) Post and link and post and link and post and link—get your video in front as many people as possible and link back to your site; it is about maximizing exposure and maximizing traffic

More detailed advice from previous posts:
Good enough video:

How Web video differs from TV:

Video scripting:

Ideas for Web video:

And a series from a Fortune 500 corporate executive speech coach:

Digital Media Branding Mistakes: Search Result Slip-Ups

A shocking number of companies miss a critical opportunity to communicate in search engine results. What you say in Google, Bing and Yahoo! impacts traffic to your site and your brand image.  Yet, too many companies let programmers write this marketing copy. Here are the five most common search engine results copy writing mistakes:

1) Providing no information at all. No title. No description. No reason to visit. No idea of what the company does.
Humanscale SERP

2) Leaving the placeholder text from the software used to build the Web site in place. Surely the government of Massachusetts has more to say than promote Joomla! Web content management software.

Massachusetts Government Joomla SERP

3) Allowing random content to populate search engine results. Here is one “huh?” example from Elan Corporation, a pharmaceutical company:

Here is another example of random content from Healthnet:

Healthnet SERP
Instead of offering directions for finding a subscriber number, Healthnet could have used the search results to talk about the “Healthnet: A better decision” brand positioning or they could have offered their company description: “Health Net, Inc. is among the nation’s largest publicly traded managed health care companies. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable.”

4) Just listing what you sell, packing in as many search terms as possible, but offering no real compelling reason to visit the site.

datacard SERP
5) Allowing your description to exceed the allotted space or simply not using the space you have efficiently. In general, you have 60 characters to use for your title and 160 for your page description. Take this example from Corning:

Corning SERP

The title is short and generic. Instead of being just “Corning Incorporated | Home”, the title could have included branding: “Corning: The world leader in specialty glass and ceramics”. That would have left plenty of room for a succinct and compelling description: “Corning has 150 years of materials science expertise and process engineering knowledge. We turn possibilities into breakthrough realities.”

Getting traffic to your site requires that you effectively communicate who you are and why someone should visit. Brand communicators need to get actively involved in how their company appears in search engine results pages. This copy needs to be “on brand”, rich in keywords, and should encourage people to click and visit. This communication is too important to be left by default to Web page programmers.

Proxios Uses Web Video for Customer Testimonials

We covered several weeks ago a comprehensive list of ways to use Web video. One of the easiest and most powerful uses of Web video is the customer testimonial. With more impact than a customer list and more persuasive than a quote, is a short video of your customers talking about your product or service and what it has done for them. Video customers in their office, touring their facilities, or catch a sound bite at a conference. You’ll see real results.

Here is a link to our client Proxios and some of the customer testimonials we produced for them:

Proxios Web Video Customer Testimonials

More on Web video:
A Dozen Ideas for Web Video and Beyond
When “Good Enough” Web Video is Great
Web Video: Preparing your Message
Web Video: Preparing Your Delivery
Web Video: Thinking About the Visual Presentation
Ten Ways Web Video Is Different from TV
Web Video: Six Keys to Writing Scripts for Video

Crowdsourcing without a Crowd: Levia’s Failed Attempt

Levia® launched a crowdsourcing video contest in September with much fanfare only to watch the entire effort fizzle. Called “Lights, Camera, Healing”, the program asked people to create and submit original videos extolling the virtues of the “healing power of light”. The Crowdsourcing idea famously worked for Doritos® in creating memorable (and cheap!) Super Bowl ads. The “Crash the Super Bowl” video crowdsource campaign garnered Doritos® tons of press and kudos.  Yet, the same idea to crowdsource video for Levia® failed miserably.

Here are the three biggest reasons why:

1) You can’t crowdsource if you don’t have a crowd.
Doritos is a mega-brand will millions and millions of passionate consumers.  And Levia®? You probably never heard of it.  Levia® is a device that uses light to treat psoriasis. The set of people who suffer from psoriasis and who have heard of Levia® and who have the technical know-how to produce video and who care enough to come up with winning concepts about light’s power to heal is an infinitesimally small set of people–certainly not a crowd. Crowds are a necessary prerequisite for crowdsourcing.

2) You won’t attract attention without adequate bait.
Doritos fan-created video contest offers a $25,000 cash prize, a trip to the Super Bowl, a private party for the winner at the Super Bowl, plus the unimaginable fame of having your work broadcast during the SuperBowl. Producing a witty 5 minute video for Levia® takes a lot of work and creativity. And the prize was only $1000 for a video almost no one would ever see. If you don’t make it worth it, no one will make an effort.

3) If you make it too much work, it won’t work.
Coming up with a great idea for a video is hard work. Writing video scripts takes tremendous talent. That is why ad agencies get paid the big bucks. Producing video has gotten a lot easier, but producing video good enough for corporate use or for broadcast requires significant technical know how and experience. How to frame shots, how to light subjects, how to get great sound, how to edit effectively, and how to encode are all pretty heavy lifting.  For most people, the effort is simply too great.

Take a crowdsourcing lesson from Levia®:
1) Make sure you really have a crowd
2) Create a campaign adequate to attracting enthusiastic participation
3) Make it as easy and fun as possible.

Is the Press Release Dead

Yes, sort of. The old-fashioned document you faxed to a bunch of editors and reporters is dead.  The more recent idea of a “social media press release” is also dead—it did more for the PR agency that invented it than it did for people seeking coverage. Yet that doesn’t mean that an evolved press release is not still a powerful marketing tool.  What is different about press releases today is how they are written, what is in them and how they are used.

Writing the Evolved Press Release

Headlines used have to catch the eye of an editor. While that is still important, writing for search engines is at least equally important. Include your most important keyword in your headline. Make sure the body of your release is just as rich in keywords. Use subheadings and bullets. You might even put some of the more important sound bites as bullets before starting your main copy.
–>The key take away—make your release easy to scan and make sure it is written with SEO (search engine optimization) in mind.

What Goes In the Evolved Press Release

Old-fashioned press releases announced news. That is still the case today, but it is by no means enough. The evolved press release also includes:

  • Links: Link to relevant pages and blog posts on your site. Offer white papers and resources to download.
  • Quoted Source Information: Consider including connections to LinkedIn bios, onsite corporate profiles, photos, and published commentary.
  • Rich media: Include charts, photographs, even video that is relevant to the release.
  • Sharing widgets: Include widgets for connecting to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Make it easy to share your content with an “email this” widget. Experts are advising against social bookmarking. Lee Odden, who writes the Online Marketing Blog says it is “social media suicide because Digg users are 99 times more likely to Bury social media news releases than to Digg them.”
  • Metadata: You need to write a meta title, meta description, and well-researched keywords, and include them with the release. If your release is picked up, editors will find the keyword suggestions helpful. On press release distribution sites, metadata helps your release get found.

Using the Evolved Press Release

Sending your press release to actual members of the press still makes sense, but it is only a first step. You can use your release to get links by submitting it to a reputable press release distribution service like Business Wire or PR Newswire.  Be wary of free press release submission services as they are full of “spam” press releases—sales pitches with the word “news” pasted at the top. Your release is unlikely to get picked up from any of these free services and the links will not be high value ones in terms of SEO. Make sure to post your release on your site. Use html so that search engines can find your release more easily than they can a pdf. Give the release to your sales staff. They can send it to prospects and dormant clients as a way to stay in touch.  Releases can also be used as part of a sales kit.
–>And don’t forget to Tweet! Once your release is on your site, make sure to schedule Tweets about it. Link back to it from your company’s Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. Have your SEO team do a little link building with relevant blogs.
Far from being dead, a well-written, newsy, release rich in content can help with SEO, with attracting links, and can have a long “afterlife” as a sales tool.

Mountain Dew Dewmocracy: 5 Elements of Successful Use of Social Media

“Viral Marketing Can Make Your Brand Sick” was a post here from two years ago. Since that time, marketing executives have learned some key lessons. Take the current Mountain Dew Dewmocracy campaign.  Here are the five key ingredients of its success:

1)    Social Media Needs to Be On Brand:

The campaign fits with the Mountain Dew brand positioning and targeting. The Dewmocracy campaign targets young, active, adventure seeking consumers who seek caffeine to keep going. Failed social media campaigns (like Motrin’s disdain for mothers who “wear” their children) are disconnected from the target consumer and hit the wrong notes (like Target which denigrated charming homemade Halloween costumes).

2)    Social Media Takes Planning and Investment:

Pepsico, the owner of the Mountain Dew brand, fully committed to the campaign. Failed social media campaigns tend to be off-the-cuff ideas that lack the planning and investment needed for success , like the Dr. Pepper campaign (covered in the same Viral Marketing post). Dr. Pepper couldn’t keep up with demand and went back on their promise of a free can of soda to people who bought the new Guns N Roses album.

3)    Social Media Is About the Conversation:

Give and take is built into the structure of the Dewmocracy campaign. Failed campaigns consist of companies just blasting away at the public with no conversation. Witness BP using Twitter to blare press release headlines, never actually engaging in conversation with people making comments or asking questions.

4)    Social Media Is Integrated with Other Marketing Communications:

The Dewmocracy campaign was much, much more than a social media campaign. Social media was one integrated element in a program that included trucks bringing cans of product to events, online design tools, advertising (traditional and online), as well as a top-to-bottom PR campaign (get the details here). The failed Skittles “bold move” campaign was nothing but a Twitter feed that ended up dissing the brand.

5)    Social Media Requires Being Genuine:

Dewmocracy created a real conversation about a real project of the company and led to the creation of a real new product. The  “Starbucks My Idea” campaign comes across as “do something with social media” rather than a way to really interact with consumers to create real product innovation.

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool.  Because it is new, fast and inexpensive, companies haven’t always taken its power seriously. But like any marketing tool, it takes solid thinking and considerable investment to make it work.

Uh-Oh–Target Angers Moms with Halloween Ads

Target’s mom-bashing ad makes you wonder: Don’t advertisers test their ads before broadcasting them–even in “broadcasting” is “just” YouTube and in-store media? This ad would never have passed the mom test:

While the outcry hasn’t reached the angry Motrin Mom level, Target has still made a mistake putting down a costume made by Mom to hawk cheap, store-bought, made-in-China costumes.  Here is a smattering of the angry comments:

PixieRobot: “Target thinks your mom sucks.”

Fshfacegurl: “Homemade costume > storebought costume. No amount of money will buy a mom’s unconditional love. (Unless you’re Candy Spelling)”

Magog1138:Like “Seriously- That mom made him one hella BAD-ASS costume from stuff around the house. WTF, Target?”

Alex4T3Hwin: “First the gays, now moms. Who will Target alienate next? Shame on you Target. I’d rather have a light velcroed to my chest by mom who loves me than 20 dollars worth of ugly.”

And that’s just the YouTube commentary. The mommy blogs are lit up disgusted. Says one, “NOT Latina Mom Approved.” Even a Dad weighed in with “Go Suck It, Target!” and he doesn’t stop there.

Just because an ad is “only” for the Web or “just” viral doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put through the same rigorous approval process used for broadcast ads. In fact, ads on YouTube need MORE screening. You can always “pull” a broadcast ad, but once your communication is on the Web, it is “out there” forever.