Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to win in the "I hate your new logo" game

I write a good bit in this blog about objective-based marketing. Objectives keep the marketing enterprise focused on business drivers and not on personal whim. That's important. Still, subjectivity is a factor that marketers need to be ready to understand and address. (I wrote last year about objective versus subjective reasoning. Here's a link to that blog entry.)

We've just announced a new logo in my current organization. This organization has a high public profile in the region, so there was a good bit of news coverage and an accompanying wave of opinion expressed by lots of people, both pro and con. For the most part it was all subjective: "I like it." "I don't." "I think this change is stupid." "I think this is a big improvement." "I think this is a waste of money." Etc. Do you see a pattern in all of these responses? They all start with "I." They're all subjective responses.

Some of my staff and colleagues allowed this subjective reaction to get to them. To them, it felt like the project was failing. Of course, none of these subjective responses had anything to do with the actual objectives for the project. These were what mattered most. Few of the people expressing their personal opinions had even explored the actual business reasons for the logo change and what the initiative was meant to accomplish. They were just expressing their personal, gut-level reactions.

The first few days or weeks of a new logo's life are its most vulnerable moments. At this stage the new mark has no real meaning (read more about this phenomenon). In some cases, as is the situation within my organization, the new logo represents a change in tradition. This naturally invokes peoples' sharp emotional responses. During such a time, it's critical that marketers keep their objectives squarely in mind. Post them above your desk. Make sure your CEO has the objectives in his or her talking points. Remind your staff of the objectives constantly.

Years ago, when I was vp of marketing services for a financial company, we rolled out a new logo. There was a strong emotional reaction among some staff people who saw the "mark of the beast" in the new logo (I'm not kidding). Their reaction had nothing to do with the objectives and was, quite frankly, outrageous. But our CEO and other key leaders teetered on their decision because of the subjective reactions. We almost lost the logo because of this, but objectives eventually saved us. The logo is still in use in that organization some 15 years later.

Remember, people will react subjectively to a new logo. It's human nature. Just be ready with carefully crafted objectives to help everyone understand the true nature of such an effort. And a further caveat: If you don't have objectives when you launch a logo change in an organization, you will lose. I guarantee it!