A unique logo design gets dumbed down by board-room egos
This morning, whilst Beg to Differ was checking our favourite blogs, looking for signs of hope in this new decade, we noticed the sad tale of a re-branding effort -or more accurately a logo design project – at do-it-yourself travel site Expedia.com (via Brand New). Seems that their distinctive, fun little logo wasn’t good enough for “the golf shirt test”…
What’s the “golf shirt test”?
That’s where an executive evaluates a logo, tag line, name, etc. in terms of how it will look on their golf shirt rather than how well it works for customers.
In this case, it’s logo design. The old design was kind of goofy, maybe a little clip-arty cartoonish, and yes, a bit retro (read “old-fashioned”). But it did just what it was intended to do: it conveyed a clear brand idea. It captured a bit of the excitement and adventure of travel, while giving target customers a strong symbol to help them find, remember, and engage with the service.
Now that might seem like a good thing. But that’s just because you’re thinking like a customer.
Instead, think for a moment like a corporate executive who wants to hit the golf circuit with the big kids from IBM, AT&T, etc., with their important-looking corporate swag. You don’t want to stand out; you want to blend in. And alas, a fun, humanizing image can make a VP feel positively bush league – or worse, like dot-commie.
I get that. I worked for Corel during the heyday of Mike Cowpland and CorelDRAW. So I had to wear ugly shirts with giant rainbow-coloured balloons in the board rooms of Samsung, HP, Compaq, Apple, among others. I understand feeling self-conscious about a dorky shirt and wishing you could just change that bloody logo. (Note: please don’t look to Corel for an example on this one).
The new logo
So when I saw the new Expedia logo design and branding tag (at right) I thought: aha! Golf shirt logic!
This new logo looks just incredibly… grown up. No more fun cartoon plane. Just a generic white jet icon against a boring blue globe. An executive with this logo on a shirt could blend right in with the leaders of airports, international aid agencies, government programs – maybe even defence contractors.
Paul Leonard, VP of brand marketing at Expedia, seems to have golf shirts on his brain. Brand New quotes him as saying:
“The whole look and feel is “less cartoonish”… We were striving for a more timeless and classic aesthetic. It’s a little less whimsical and more sophisticated.”
“Timeless.” “Classic.” “Sophisticated.” All words that are proxies for “Won’t make any impression at all.”
And one assumes Mr. Leonard also chose that very golf-shirt friendly tag line “Where you book matters.” (It’s a shame he forgot to decide why it matters – or if he did, he forgot to tell us).
One also assumes that the he also approved the generic look and feel of the new Web site – with no troublesome differentiating features to help consumers distinguish it from, well, anything else in the travel industry.
Dear executives: it’s not about you
I could go on. But brand managers, please: you need to help your corporate masters understand that branding is not about making them look good on the golf course!
A brand is about three simple things:
- Helping customers find you;
- Giving them reasons to choose you; and
- Creating a relationship that will help them choose you again.
And sad to say, those three things just *might* not look pretty on a golf shirt.