There are three things the CEO’s running Corporate America truly care about. The size of their pay package, which usually enjoys an inverse relationship to their company’s revenues, profits and stock performance.
How many golf tournaments they can convince their handpicked boards of directors to sponsor that will reward them with a personal one-on-one round with Tiger… And the company logo.
Why the company logo? Because unlike the general public, these Captains of Industry see the damn thing all the time. It’s on their stationary; it’s on the napkins their drinks are served on aboard their corporate jet; it’s embossed on their golf bag, it’s even on the Annual Report.
To the CEO, the logo is a big deal. That’s why they fuss over it, and that’s why lots of “Corporate Design Gurus” make dumpster loads of money by noodling barely discernible graphic changes to something that looked just fine a few million dollars ago.
This last week, we have been treated to the re-designed Twitter logo. Which looks exactly like the old logo, except they’ve shaved off its forelock and made it a slightly darker shade of blue. However, in the words of Twitter’s Creative Director
“Our new bird grows out of love for ornithology, design within creative constraints, and simple geometry. This bird is crafted purely from three sets of overlapping circles — similar to how your networks, interests and ideas connect and intersect with peers and friends. Whether soaring high above the earth to take in a broad view, or flocking with other birds to achieve a common purpose, a bird in flight is the ultimate representation of freedom, hope and limitless possibility.”
Oh yes indeed! Now you know what a Creative Director does at Twitter to earn his forthcoming IPO millions.
The whole preciousness of this kind of thinking is best summed up in a wonderful Goodby Silverstein + Partners video of their first experience with Twitter. In the prescient words of Rich Silverstein… “Lose the bird… Just lose the bird!”
Meantime, over at Pepsi, further proof that Corporate America does not learn from the lessons of history with the news that they have just appointed Mauro Porcini as their “Chief Design Officer.” We are told that “his reach will extend from package design to advertising, industrial design and digital experiences.” Obviously, this will include the logo, and stupid me naively thought that Mr. Porcini’s primary expertise was in mushroom farming!
It just goes to show how little I know! And yet, it only seems like yesterday since the implosion of ace design guru, Peter Arnell with his multi-million dollar redesign of both Pepsi and Tropicana packaging, which, after it was discovered that the entire universe hated it, cost the company millions more to revert back to the original design.
This in spite of Arnell’s notorious 27 page memo (titled BREATHTAKING Design Strategy) justifying the new Pepsi logo by equating it with such diverse influences as Feng shui, the Renaissance, the Earth’s magnetic fields and the sun’s radiation. All this for what Steve Jobs once described as fizzy sugared water for kids, when he was persuading John Sculley to jump ship from Pepsi to Apple.
Many years ago, while freelancing on the Xerox account at Y&R, I attended a meeting at Xerox corporate headquarters for the unveiling of their new corporate design and logo. This had taken several months and several million dollars sunk into the bottomless pit of a world famous design company, and was intended to finally put the nail in the coffin lid of the commonly held perception that all Xerox did was make copiers.
Something which, even today, after expending billions of marketing dollars, the vast majority of people still think is their primary business. On the day, a hundred or so people assembled for the presentation. As usual, this required a “set-up” involving many Power Point slides, lots of graphics and the mind numbing presentation of “insights” that were blindingly obvious. But finally, the big moment came.
The world famous Design Company’s recommendation was that from this time forward everything should be signed as… “The Document Company – Xerox.” There was moment of stunned silence, and then someone grabbed a hand mike and shouted… “But that’s what we’ve always called ourselves.” “No,” replied the world famous design guru. “You’ve always said you are, “Xerox – The Document Company.” We’ve changed the emphasis.”
And that’s worth five million dollars of any CEO’s money. Particularly as in reality, it’s not his or hers, it’s the shareholders. So it won’t affect their next “Performance” bonus.
And always remember… If in doubt… Make the logo bigger.
George Parker has spent more than 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is adscam.typepad.com, which he describes as, “required reading for those looking for a piss & vinegar view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, “Confessions of a Mad Man,” makes the TV show “Mad Men” look like “Sesame Street.”
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