A unique logo design gets dumbed down by board-room egos
This morning, check whilst Beg to Differ was checking our favourite blogs, advice looking for signs of hope in this new decade, order 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.
EXPEDIA is a scam. SOurce: http://www.victimsofexpedia.com
Dennis Van Staalduinen says
Hmm. Thanks John. Any comments on the actual topic of the post?
I think the logo (sphere part) looks an awful lot like Xbox but in different colors.
Dennis Van Staalduinen says
Actually, you’re right. Wow. Totally unintentional I’m sure – unless they’re hoping to launch EXPEDIA UNBOUND – a first-person shooter where you run around a badly run hotel shooting shady guests and dishonest staff… hmm. My next great idea?
IMHO those brand changes occur when there is a major change in management of the firm. Something analogoous to animals marking their territory. New management feel compelled to show the troops and customer base that they are here to bring about change (any change in this case would be a good show. New golf shirts work as well). Typically the new management is now emotionally invested in the company (e.g. did not work those long hours back in 1990 to get that first big deal which propelled the company) so they don’t care about the past. They have been hand-picked by the board of directors to “change” things. They do not appreciate that the past is what made the company to begin with. Sometimes in their frenzy to mark their territory, they end up stepping all over the goose with the golden eggs too …
I worked at Mercury Computer Systems (www.mc.com) while the founder was still CEO (Jay B). The logo was then the Mercury God (look at the FTD logo to have an idea). The reason was that they made multi-computers and they were the fastest (at the time). The new management recently saw it as outdated and since they did not have any ties with the sweat and tears that made it the multi-million dollar company, they got rid of it. They now have this insipid logo that is supposed to mean streams? An alternative interpretation could be a black hole sucking in the daylight rays …
I agree, Dennis, I liked the “before” version much better. There was something about that yellow plane that was kind of fun and welcoming.
Not to mention, as an Expedia customer for over five years, it’s become so familiar that the new logo/tagline almost seems disconnected from the company that I’ve come to know.
And don’t get me started on that tagline…”Where you book matters”??
It almost makes NO sense when you break it down.
Jodie Marotte says
Brock Hileman says
Buyer beware when booking travel plans through Expedia.com, they just took me for $1096.00. Here is how the monster sets it trap; early last winter I planned a family vacation that entailed flying to Phoenix to rent a car and drive southwest to beautiful San Carlos Mexico. In an effort to keep the travel expenses to a minimum the flight was booked months in advance. Of course as the day of departure approached news of violence in the Mexican border towns filled the media. It just didn’t seem practical to put my wife and daughter in possible harm’s way for a vacation, so we changed our destination to Florida. This was still weeks before our scheduled departure to Phoenix. We knew there would be expenses involved in changing our flight plans but we weren’t ready for phase 1 of the Expedia.com monster trap. After hearing all about their terms of service and how there was nothing they could do because United Airlines was the real culprit, the cheapest fair they offered was FOUR TIMES the cost of booking new tickets through United Airlines. So we booked the tickets ourselves directly through United Airlines. Expedia.com explained that we now had a credit with them but it had to be used within the year. So now I was setup for phase 2 of the Expedia.com plan to steal. As the deadline for our credit with Expedia.com came closer my family again decided to travel to Florida. A major part of the decision was based on having the travel expenses somewhat mitigated by the credit with Expedia.com. What a mistake, here is how it worked out; for us to buy brand new tickets for my wife, daughter and I from Southwest Airlines directly (without Expedia involvement) cost right at $1000.00. To utilize my credit with Expedia.com I would have had to pony up an extra $2600.00. That is above the $1096.00 credit! So that’s how Expedia.com stole from me. I gave them $1096.00 in good faith but because of the deteriorating climate in Mexican border towns I felt it was absolutely prudent to change our plans. The dark and monstrous side of Expedia.com sits and waits for victims who need to make a change and when found it pounces without mercy. All the solutions they offered were at FOUR TIMES the fair market value for airline tickets. I gave Expedia.com $1096.00 and received nothing in return, legal or not in my opinion that is at best a very poor way to conduct business and at worst downright theft. Beware of the Expedia.com monster, it’s heart is filled with greed and it is patiently waiting to lure you into its trap.