Some people pray for happiness, some people meditate. Some people put their bodies through great physical stress to attain a sense of spiritual wellbeing. Others indulge in retail therapy. Yep, advertisers have managed to hack right into your soul to make you buy things. This is the first in a three part series of posts which will teach you how you can do the same.

In this post, we see why the top brands stopped promoting products.

Advertisers are a bit flakey these days

In the branding section of the services part of this site, I talk about what makes a good logo design. I talk about the technical aspects of the logo and why companies should implement these things from a pragmatic point of view, but branding is oh so much more than that.

First, I’ll sum up what makes a good logo design:

  • It must look just as good when shrunk to the size of a Twitter avatar as it does when blown up to the size of the side of a van or a billboard.
  • It must look professional. The difference between a professionally produced logo and one that is not is very striking and you can discredit yourself with something that lacks quality.
  • It must contain ideas that are relevant to what you do.
  • There are also some people who say that it should be simple. This isn’t exactly true, instead it should have a certain amount of what’s known as Propositional Density: This is basically the number of ideas per element within the design, and is probably the most important thing.

Right, now let’s have a look at a well known logo and how that adheres to these guidelines, Obama’s 2008 campaign logo:

So is it scalable? Yes, it was used for Twitter avatars as well as huge billboards as well as everything else in between.

Does it work in black and white as well as colour? Yes, it would still be recognisable in greyscale.

Is it professional? Yes. In case you’re interested, it was designed by a team led by Sol Sender at VSA Partners (but I can give you a much better deal than they would 😉 )

Does it have ideas and propositional density? Yes, as illustrated by this diagram taken from the excellent ‘Universal Principles of Design’ by Butler, Holden and Lidwell.

branding glasgow

So that’s all very well and good, but does this apply to another well known logo? The Nike logo?

Is it scalable? Yes. Does it work in black and white? It is in black and white. Is it professional? Yes.

Does it have propositional density?

Well, the swoosh represents speed and the tick represents positivity, but there’s not much more to the physical form of the logo than that.

So is the Nike logo actually rubbish then?

Well, no, because these are not the only things that people think about when they see the Nike logo. Instead, they think about all the other things that Nike have done.

Ads like this:

Sponsoring people like this:

…and clearing up PR disasters with people they have sponsored by making uncomfortable ads like this, featuring a recording of Tiger Woods’ father, which was recorded before Earl Woods passed away and the scandal of Tiger’s sex life became public knowledge:

This is because Nike represents more than just their products. They represent the spirit of victory. Willpower over the limitations of the human body. Strength, tenacity and all that good stuff. The word ‘Nike’ actually comes from the name of the Greek goddess of victory and these are the other elements that are built into Nike’s logo as well as just the visual components.

Everyone’s doing it

This is why O2 have been sponsoring every music venue and sports arena they can talk to, and why they are offering priority access to sports and music events as part of their service. Because they have openly stated that they want fans, not customers:

It’s the same reason why Fender guitars want to sponsor all the top rock acts, why Red Bull sponsor extreme sports and why Tetley Tea sponsors Coronation Street – so they can build the qualities found in these things into their brands.

…and it works

The results are there. Everyone knows how stroppy and cult-like Apple devotees are. You can see why here in this clip from BBC’s Secrets of the Superbrands, where they found that putting an Apple fan into an MRI scanner and showing them images of Apple products with a control images of non-Apple products led to the same part of the brain lighting up when the Apple products were shown as when you show a religious person images of iconography relating to their own chosen religion:

This isn’t even the most extreme example. It’s actually possible to buy a house and live in a town originally developed by Disney. It’s called Celebration, it’s in Florida, and it has simultaneously been described as a “return to small-town values with walkable and safe communities” and “creepy”. Here’s the promo video:

So WHY does it work?

Well, the reason is because the top brands are no longer selling products. They are selling ideals. This is because people buy what they want, rather than what they need.

If we look at the example of Nike again, Nike don’t sell trainers. That’s because trainers are something that you need for going to the gym. Trainers cost £8.99 a pair in ASDA (don’t quote me on that). What Nike sells is the spirit of victory, which costs £120 a pair.

To find out why people do this, visit the next post in the series.

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