That… thing (I really don’t know how to define it) you see on the right side of this post is the new logo for the London Olympics 2012. A big discussion surfaced after it was unveiled (thanks to it £ 400K price tag it even made it to the Digg Homepage) following this declarations from Seb Coe, chairman of London 2012 organising committee:
“This is the vision at the very heart of our brand”
“It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world”
“It is an invitation to take part and be involved”
Seth takes the opportunity write a cool post on logos, where he basically sais that “great logo doesn’t mean anything until the brand makes it worth something” (ok I’m over-simplifying, go read it).
Now I don’t want to be part of the detractors of the design (I’ve actually found some lovers as well!), but my point is: isn’t it the same thing for the brand?
I mean, isn’t the brand a collection of logos, users (and non users) perceptions, images, experiences, words etc?
Wikipedia definition of brand is:
a name, logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with a product or service. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the use of the product or service and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it.
Now is an Amazon recommendation part of the brand? Is your friend telling you that an indian restaurant is fantastic part of the brand? Is a link from another blog part of the brand equity of a blog page? According to the definition above (and to my opinion, for that matters), it is. For all of that “is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it“
But what does it mean to say that your friend is part of an indian restaurant’s brand? He’s not on the fancy logo, the people running the restaurant most likely wouldn’t ever recognize him, you can’t even be sure that he’s ever been there. In my opinion he IS the brand because he’s the only one who had a conversation with you on that particular restaurant. Of course you may have a conversation with the restaurant itself if you had been eating there (via the food, the waitress, the furniture etc) or even just passed by (via the logo or the whereabouts).
Of course, conversating directly with the restaurant makes some sense (after all a direct chat is sometimes the best way to get things right), still bad marketing messed things up a little bit. As Seth himself writes in his book All Marketers Are Liars “There’s a huge cohort of consumers that shares the worldview that marketers are lying scum“.
That’s one of the reasons I see the communication moving away from the directly involved people and getting into open conversation: believability is an issue today as it has never been in the past. Oddly, an unknown blogger may be more believable than a self-appointed “brand-speaker” (agency, PR, marketing department). Why? Because a blogger (generally) doesn’t hide himself. He reveals his name and speaks for himself. You wouldn’t trust somebody speaking while hiding in the shadows as well. That’s the reason why I like what Sun is doing (and even Microsoft is not that far behind), because they talk with users by putting their name and face into the discussion, whether they are being praised or blamed. In a world of liars, that’s all I can ask.