Archive for the ‘branding’ Category

Is MacHeist’s Tweetblast an example of how advertisers will destroy Twitter?

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Like many people (19,000 at the last count) I took part in MacHeist’s recent “tweetblast” which, as Cult of Mac explain:

is a simple concept. All you have to do is post a tweet on Twitter using a particular phrase, which in this case is:

‘@MacHeist Yeah, I’ll take a free copy of DEVONthink! #MacHeist #free’

And once you’ve done that, you can claim a license code for DEVONthink worth just shy of 50 bucks.

I did it for several reasons – firstly I thought it was DEVONagent I was asking for, which is a rather good internet research tool. But it wasn’t – it was DEVONthink which is also a neat tool but which, as an Evernote user, I don’t really need. Secondly I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on MacHeist which in the past has led me to getting hold of someinteresting software at knock-down prices.
But mainly I was intrigued. I’d seen companies use Twitter for promotional purposes before – for example Evernote themselves are asking people to send tweets on Fridays for a chance to win prizes, while of course at the same time telling anyone who follows them about the product.

But Evernote’s strategy relies on people being bothered to compose a short and meaningful message – to me it’s still within the realms of what Twitter is all about. The MacHeist approach is different. To get the “prize” (which is guaranteed) you simply have to send a set phrase. It’s easy to do – in fact I read someone else’s tweet and simply copied and pasted it and sent it on. It’s the equivalent of a chain letter. It’s not a meme, before anyone uses the term, as a meme is an idea that develops and mutates. This is cloning, not memetics.
It strikes me as being similar to those advertising campaigns where you would have to find someone or be approached by them and say a certain phrase word-for-word to win the prize. They still happen: radio stations phone people up randomly and if they answer with the required phrase they get money, but anything else (like “Hello?”) loses.
It’s sort of exciting, but it’s also very useful for the organiser because it’s a sure fire way of getting hundreds, thousands, if not more, people to memorise a phrase and rehearse saying it over and over. Then telling their friends.

There’s no memorising going on here, of course, but there is certainly friend-telling. Tweeting the message ensures it’s seen by anyone who follows you and, if your updates aren’t protected, by anyone looking at the public timeline. Because it will happen quickly, it means the timeline will be flooded with the same message for an hour or so, and that it will crop up in any clients that track popular topics.

It’s very, very clever. But it’s also rather worrying. Why? Well I’ll let Cult of Mac explain:

By asking people to turn their Twitter streams into advertising billboards, the MacHeisters are damaging the community there. Twitter’s supposed to be about the sharing of status, it’s all about conversation. I find it sad to see it being co-opted by commercialism. Sad, but not surprising.

The more Twitter grows, the more advertisers are going to try and game it. I don’t want the people I follow to be tempted into doing the spammers’ work for them. I don’t want to see advertising where I expected to see real people.

I think this is right: MacHeist has distorted Twitter to suit its own ends and I fell right in to it for a piece of software I didn’t need (I even had to unprotect my updates temporarily to take part). Skittles did something similar last week, turning their home page in to a Twitter search for #skittles – the only problem being that it resulted in people posting racist and crude messages. MacHeist’s approach is cleverer. If other companies cotton on to it (which they will if people like me blog about it!) we could soon see Twitter flooded with advertising messages like this one:

‘@Coca-Cola Yeah, I’ll take a free can of cola and the chance to win a trip of a lifetime! #Coca-Cola #free’

You get the idea…

Being too literal in logo design

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Cross posted from my other blog:

In one of my lectures, on visual communication, I use a little exercise to illustrate an aspect of semiotics.

I give the students a brief: they are to design a logo for a law firm that specialises in family law, dealing with families who are facing some form of legal entanglement. I tell them they have two minutes to come up with an idea.
Two minutes later I stop them and ask them all to stand up. I then start eliminating them by saying things like “sit down if you drew a police badge”. That usually gets rid of about half. A gavel gets rid of several more, as do jail bars, a law book, a police light and so on.
Before long we’re down to the last few students and I can usually get rid of them too with ‘hands’ or ‘cut out people’. I also eliminate anyone who used just words or initials (words aren’t so bad of course, I’m just being mean, but initials for firms always bemuse me – IBM and a few others aside, of course).

If there’s anyone left standing it’s either because I’ve missed a really obvious one (last year it was a bird, this year it was a court house) or because they’ve done something quite abstract – this year it was a square with four circles around it. Nice one. We have a winner.

(Just remembered, Orlando Weeks now of The Maccabees, “won” this a few years ago when he did a logo of “a unicorn jumping over a rainbow”. Mmm…)

The point I’m trying to make in that exercise, other than it being a bit of a break from them listening to me drone on, is that when faced with a quick challenge like that, students (everyone) tend to to think not in cliches (I happen to think cliches are good things – they’re how we communicate) but in too literal a sense. The last thing, I say, someone who is facing juvenile court on a shoplifting charge wants to see is a logo for a lawyer that screams “you’re going to jail!”.
Look at supermarkets – how many of them have logos that show a basket of shopping? (I seem to be the only one who thinks the Lidl logo looks like someone pushing a trolley)


I came up with this little game (which makes more sense in the context of the lecture than it does here) a few years ago when some graphic design students at a previous job were asked by a local law firm to come up with a logo for a similar brief. The winner was a half open door with light coming through it. The tutor loved it, the clients loved it. I hated it. They thought it said “there is hope”. I thought it said “you’re doomed”. But then, that’s me for you.
It did, however, make me look anew at logos to try to find the overly literal. And while there are a few, they’re pretty rare and almost universally poor. I won’t link to any here – look for yourself you lazy git.

All of which brings me to something that amused me. A couple of years ago, after I’d done this exercise with them, some students came in to my office with something they’d found in the Yellow Pages. An ad for a law firm which fell in to exactly the trap I’d laid for them (click on the image for a larger version). I think this is a pretty amazing/bad piece of advertising – I’ll have to add prison tattoos to my list for next year’s lecture.

Lawyer ad.jpeg

Wolff Olins: Have they given up?

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

This new logo for Wacom has apparently been designed by Wolff Olins, creators of the appalling 2012 London Olympics logo.

Mmm… time to let the work experience school kid go, and bring the proper designers back?

Whoops! She did it again

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Britney Spears’s perfume logo is a rip off?

Read this article for the full story. If it’s a coincidence it’s bizarre. And if it’s theft it’s brazen.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Legal fight over the red cross symbol

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

The BBC is reporting a lLegal fight over red cross symbol:

Medical firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is suing the American Red Cross, alleging the charity has misused the famous red cross symbol for commercial purposes.
J&J said a deal with the charity’s founder in 1895 gave it the ‘exclusive use’ of the symbol as a trademark for drug, chemical and surgical products.

It said American Red Cross had violated this agreement by licensing the symbol to other firms to sell certain goods.

The charity described the lawsuit as ‘obscene’.

It said many of the products at issue were health and safety kits and that profits from their sale had been used to support disaster-relief campaigns.

The lawsuit asks for sales of disputed products – also including medical gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes – to be stopped and unsold items to be handed over to J&J.”

Read the rest….

Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn’t it?

Conservatives rebrand – again

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Design Week reports:

The Conservative Party is changing its tree logo from green (above) to blue, less than a year after its launch.

The identity redesign retains the scribbled tree shape, but it is now sky blue and features a cloud and a ray of sunlight.

The £40 000 scribbled tree logo was created by London design group Perfect Day to replace the flaming ‘freedom’ torch identity, which was introduced in 1977.

The new logo invited criticism when it was unveiled in September 2006, being compared to a child’s drawing, broccoli, and a coin scratch on a lottery card.

Party officials said last year that the tree represented ‘strength, endurance, renewal and growth’, and emphasised the party’s Green credentials.

Onlookers are speculating that the change in hue is calculated to appease the Party’s right-wing members, coming at a time when party leader David Cameron’s authority has been under attack. A party spokesperson responded by saying that the Tory logo was always intended to be flexible, to ‘display any number of background images’.

At the party’s spring conference, the logo was covered with blossom, while at the autumn conference in October it was given a yellowish tinge.

A blue tree? A blue fucking tree?

This is why I got out of design. I can imagine the agency that came up with this logo being told by some politician to make the tree blue because ‘that’s the colour of the Conservative Party’. ‘But it’s a tree, you tosser’ would have been my considered response. ‘Oh and it says ‘Conservative’ right next to it so it’s not like anyone’s going to mistake you for the ‘Tree Party’ is it?’ Though given their current situation (David Cameron has achieved the impossible and returned them to their former status in the polls, by coming third in two by-elections) it might not be a bad idea to go for a radical rebrand and hope people do indeed confuse you for the Tree Party. Whoever they are.

Survey: Most youngsters ‘hate’ 2012 logo

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

See the list of links on the left side of this page for some of The Guardian’s coverage of the London Olympics logo.
Here’s the latest – a report on a survey suggesting the logo hasn’t hit home with the group it was supposedly aimed at:

Almost 70% of 11- to 20-year-olds dislike the youth-targeted London 2012 logo, according to a study.
The logo, which aims to tap into the youth market with a multimedia design, has come in for heavy criticism since being unveiled last week.

Now, a Q Research survey focusing on the core market London 2012 is hoping to attract – 11- to 20-year-olds – has found that 68% of respondents said they ‘hate’ the design, with more than half saying it was because it did not say anything about the capital city or the UK.

While 75% of the 431 respondents said they were ‘excited’ about the Olympics coming to London, just 30% of 11- to 16-year-olds and 35% of 16- to 20-year-olds said they ‘loved’ the new design.

The survey group was asked why they thought so many people do not like the new logo, supplying a response from a list of four answers.

In responding to these options, 30% said it was because the design ‘doesn’t say anything about the UK’; 24% said it ‘doesn’t say anything about London’; 32% simply said it ‘wasn’t a very good logo’; and 14% thought it was because adults do not understand it.

A second question asked if the logo – designed to be usable online – actually looked better in print or on the internet.

In reply to this question, 30% agreed that it looks better online, with just 11% saying it looks better printed in magazines, newspapers and posters.

‘We were pleased to see more than three-quarters of the young people we surveyed were excited about the Olympics in London,’ said the Q Research executive chairman, Dr Liz Nelson.

‘Our survey respondents had clearly given the matter of the logo itself a lot of thought, and their comments showed quite a sophisticated level of understanding design and marketing and its purpose.

‘For instance, more than half of respondents said they didn’t like the logo because it didn’t say anything about London or the UK.’

The survey asked a range of questions of 11- to 16-year-olds and 16- to 20-year-olds between Friday and Sunday.

Views were largely negative in an ‘open-ended’ response part of the survey, where respondents said what they thought about the logo.

One respondent, Lee, 15, said that it looks ‘like a kid made it’ and that while the ‘designers thought it would attract MTV viewers it doesn’t’.

This contrasts with supporter Tamsyn, 15, who said: ‘I think it’s a brilliant way of introducing the newer generations to the Olympics because it’s quite a modern design.’

Several respondents were also concerned with the fact that it cost £400,000 to develop.

Seventeen-year-old Matt said it ‘makes London look like it has no design talent to do the promoting’.

However, Caron, 17, took a much wider long-term view of the whole logo issue: ‘It doesn’t make a difference, the Olympics in London is an amazing thing.'”

(Via The Guardian.)

Incidentally, I saw the logo printed in The Guardian yesterday and found myself thinking ‘meh, it looks okay’, but then I looked again and realised that I was mistaking familiarity with enthusiasm. I suspect this is what supporters of the logo are doing too. Saying we’ll ‘get used’ to it is hardly a ringing endorsement. I might get used to a boil on the back of my neck, doesn’t mean I want it there.

Two designers talk about the Olympics 2012 logo

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Click to listen to Adrian Shaughnessy and Jessica Helfland talk about the 2012 logo

(Via Design Observer.)

You can’t make this stuff up: Epilepsy fears over 2012 footage

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

A segment of animated footage promoting the 2012 Olympic Games has been removed from the organisers’ website after fears it could trigger epileptic fits.
Prof Graham Harding, who developed the test used to measure photo-sensitivity levels in TV material, said it should not be broadcast again.

Charity Epilepsy Action said it had received calls from people who had suffered fits after seeing it.

Organisers London 2012 said it will re-edit the film.

The new logo for the event, which is a jagged emblem based on the date 2012, was unveiled on Monday.

A London 2012 spokeswoman said the health concerns surrounded a piece of animation shown at the launch, which was recorded by broadcasters and put on the official website.

Emphasising that it was not the logo itself which was the focus of worries, she said: ‘This concerns a short piece of animation which we used as part of the logo launch event and not the actual logo.’

She said the section of footage concerned showed a ‘diver diving into a pool which had a multi-colour ripple effect’.

The spokeswoman said: ‘We are taking it very seriously and are looking into it as a matter of urgency.’

‘Suffered seizure’

Prof Harding is an expert in clinical neuro-physiology and he designed a test which all moving adverts need to undergo to check they will not trigger a reaction in people with epilepsy.

He told BBC London 94.9FM: ‘It fails the Harding FPA machine test which is the machine the television industry uses to test images.

‘And so it does not comply with Ofcom guidelines and is in contravention of them.’

Christopher Filmer rang BBC London 94.9FM to say he suffered a seizure while watching the footage on television and his girlfriend also suffered a fit and needed hospital treatment.

‘The logo came up on TV and I was thinking about the 2012 Games and then I was out,’ he said.

Epilepsy Action said the images could affect the 23,000 people in the UK who have photosensitive epilepsy.

It said it had even triggered breakthrough seizures where people have a relapse after being seizure-free for a long time.

A spokesman for the charity said: ‘The brand incorporates both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is ironic as the latter is a showcase for athletes with disabilities.

‘People can strive for years to gain seizure control and it is important that nothing puts this at risk.’

(Via BBC News.)

2012 Olympics Logo Revealed…

Monday, June 4th, 2007

So this is the logo for the London 2012 Olympics. And this is the explanation.

I’m saying nothing.*

You can, however, read what ‘the great British public’ are saying on the BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ page.

*That’s cos it’s shite.