Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pint Size-Power House

They’re tiny and therefore not as obvious. But they are certainly not to be overlooked. Here’s a peek into logo-power!

Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently unveiled the new Compaq logo in Shanghai. In 2002, HP acquired its rival Compaq, creating a lot of controversy both inside and outside the company, one that had even cost its CEO Carly Fiorina her job. After 5 Years HP has finally found a good use of the logo. In fact, revival and up gradation of the Compaq logo is a part of the group’s strategy to help recover its lost market share. HP is using Compaq to protect itself from competitors nipping away at the low-end market; HP is being promoted as a premium top-end brand, while Compaq would be promoted as the simple and affordable PC. This way HP is ensuring that its price-sensitive consumers don’t deflect to Dell or Toshiba.

What’s interesting is, although customers won’t see the new Compaq products for months, but from 2005 onwards the company has been working hard to make people understand the difference between the product offerings of HP & Compaq, by marketing them differently and aggressively making the two logos, visibily distinct.

Logos give a brand its identity. They are a company’s most valuable asset. It’s no secret that a whole lot of Fortune 500 companies devote millions of dollars each year to develop their brands and promote their corporate identity. In fact, logos are what instantly make a brand recognisable. They make a brand memorable. According to some, the five interlocking rings of the Olympic Games is the most recognisable logo.

Logos also have tremendous impact. In 1974, Milton Glaser produced a logo (at his Manhattan studio), which has today become the most frequently imitated logo design in human history. IYNY (I love New York) has probably changed the way people express their love! Another popular logo – FedEx – was designed by Walter Lander. Observe the logo carefully and you would spot an arrow hidden between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’. It was meant to signify speed. After shortening the name from Federal Express to Fed Ex the company suddenly started looking more trendy. Not just that they even claimed that they saved so many tins of paint and therefore dollars!

Playboy once received a letter with the distinctive ‘bunny’ logo as the only identifying mark appearing where the mailing address would normally be written. Goes to prove, that logos, many a times, become the strongest identity of a brand.

Logos to freshen up

They may look like a tiny blob put next to the brand name, but logos work hard. They represent change. A new logo is the most effective way to signal change in an organisation. A new logo is used to make a jaded company look fashionable and in sync with the times. Hindustan Motors (remember the good old Ambassador) changed its logo to look more contemporary. The new logos of Hindustan Unilever actually consist of 24 symbols put together in the shape of a “U”.

Indian Airlines wanted to be seen as a company ready to take on domestic private airlines and shed its image of a plodding public sector undertaking. It acquired new aircrafts worth Rs.9,500 crores, and a new logo made people realize that things were changing at Indian Airlines.

Competitors & competition makes organisations sit up and take charge. Banks are all about image & service. With a whole lot of multinationals setting up shop here, our desi Indian banks realised it was time they changed. A whole lot of them developed new corporate identities to look younger & trendy. A large part of the “make-over” was a change in logos. Bank of Baroda now has a new logo called the “Baroda Sun”. UTI bank has a new name & logo “AXIS Bank”. SBI has undergone an image change. Even smaller banks like Lord Krishna Bank and Catholic Syrian Bank have redesigned their logos. They don’t want to be perceived as ‘last-genera tion’s banks’ and a new logo gives a quick facelift.

Companies that have been in the business for too many years face this problem. One of the world’s greatest vehicle brands Land Rover found its corporate look did not excite the younger generation much. It changed its corporate identity and the magic began working. Shortly after, the laurelled Land Rover achieved its financial targets.

Logos need to be revisited and spruced up every 10 to 15 years, or else they become redundant and lose their relevance. Last year Kodak introduced its new logo after more than half a century. After all the last few years have seen a change in the way the world ‘clicks’ and preserves its memories. It’s a transition from film to digital imaging and to stay in sync the company sure required a new look. Back in India Bajaj Auto’s decades old logo gave way to a new corporate identity, symbolising that the company had made the transition from a scooter company to a motorcycle major. This was Bajaj’s young management’s way of saying that it was getting on the fast lane.

To change or not to change

Change is good. It symbolises evolution. Yet a lot of corporations are faced with a dilemma of whether they should change or not. When Asian Paints wanted to get a corporate makeover, they decided it was time to bid goodbye to their mascot of many years-Gattu-the cute little mischievous boy. Little did the company realise that his absence would be surely felt.

HMV instantly brings to mind the image of a dog listening faithfully to his master’s voice coming out from the gramophone. After the company saw its profit dip by 20%, it felt the time had come for a change. So it’s replaced the old dog Nipper with a new one (from the Wallace & Gromit Series) called Gromit. People love the old logo and the company is not taking chances. It says the new logo is only for a few months–its focus being on selling children’s DVDs.

NBC after all burnt its fingers when it changed its logo to a capital ‘N’, way back in the mid 70’s. ‘N’ lacked the charm of the peacock and did not go down well with the public. It was changed back to the peacock, a few years later.

Just changing is not the solution. You need to do so with caution as sometimes sudden changes upset people. Quaker Oats modified the Quaker Man on its package over a 10 year period to avoid undermining customer confidence.

Long lasting logos

You need to design your logo with caution. A good logo is one which won’t lose its charm too quickly. After all logos need to be cared for and nurtured and it takes millions of bucks to make them popular. A logo, it’s said, works on the heart of the consumer. Think Nike... its logo symbolised a whole generation. Carolyn Davidson created it in 1971 for only $35. Today’s youth swears by Google... a logo which actually was the misspelling of the word “googol”. More people in America recognised the AT&T logo (93%) than the name of their President. Come to think of it, AT&T changed its logo design almost 70 times till it finalised on the current one!

Logos are small, but they depict large images and create long lasting impressions. Think of Superman & his logo – the large ‘S’ – is probably the most lovable and most recognised logo ever created. Some logos are just everlasting, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, BMW... you never tire of seeing them and you always like them.

Logos are strong symbols that have the power to unite, not just organisations, but people too. If Wipro’s rainbow flower helps unite its diverse business, then “Om” unites all Hindus & the “Cross” unites all Christians. Logos are more than just graphic designs. They are, in fact, pint size power houses! And by now, I’m sure you agree...

Thursday, September 13, 2007


For those who thought that the first mover advantage is the real thing, here comes a sensational eye opener...

If there was one launch that the entire world had been waiting for with bated breath, it was for the iPhone! Its been one of the most well planned launches in the history of marketing. By deliberately giving scant information about the product, they raised the excitement level to an unprecedented height, with frenzied fans waiting endlessly just to catch a glimpse of the coveted product. Not surprisingly, iPhone created a record by selling 2,70,000 devices, just within the first two days of its launch. Yet, analysts predict that the success run may not sustain. Competition has already begun to work frantically on phones that will look and sound like the iPhone and probably be much cheaper too.

Conventional business wisdom says, being first in the market allows you to set standards. In addition, you can gain economies of scale, get the consumers hooked on to your brand and gain market leadership. But reality is not all that simple. If you thought Hotmail was the first company to offer free e-mail; Amazon was the first to sell books online; eBay was the first auction site; or that Starbucks was the first to start a coffee shop, you could not be more wrong. Instead Juno was the first to offer free e-mail; was the first online book store (launched in 1996) and Peets was the first to launch the concept of a coffee shop.

Being first is not enough

The brands mentioned above were first movers in the category, yet the world does not remember them. It’s not enough to be the first mover in any segment. It’s not enough to innovate something new and introduce it in the market. Just doing that cannot guarantee you success in the long run. After all it was Robert Fulton who invented the steamboat, but Cornelius Vanderbilt was the one who ran off with the shipping business. Atari created the videogame industry. Some say if it wasn’t for Atari there wouldn’t be a videogame industry or a reason to have a computer on your desktop (in those days – 1980’s – people bought computers to play games). Today, the industry is defunct.

Not that being first does not have its advantages. Consider Coca-Cola – the first mover in the soft drink category. Pepsi is still struggling to fight “the real thing”. Similarly, Hoover was a first in vacuum cleaners. Henry Ford was the first to invent the automated assembly line, which gave him an edge over the competitors. But look closely and you realise that being first does not guarantee automatic success. Silicon Valley is proof to this. During the dotcom mania, the first-movers were the ones with the unique idea, who got all the venture capital, but it didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. Many burnt their fingers pretty bad.

First movers or first losers

Bill Gates didn’t develop the original DOS, he bought the programme from Seattle Computers Works for $50,000. Bill Gates is more a marketing genius than an innovator. It was his great understanding of the market that helped him keep a strong grasp on his market share.

After all, it was not Microsoft Internet Explorer that was the first web browser – it was Mosaic. You need to think fast, you need to adapt quickly to the changing consumer needs and you need to mould your brand constantly. The one who is the fastest, will survive and win. Intuit was faster than Microsoft and today it’s beaten it at its own game. Intuit’s Quiken beat MicrosoftMoney, its QuickBooks beat MicrosoftProfit – and come to think of it, Intuit was the 47th mover in its category!

There’s more. Dell was not the first to invent Personal Computers. It was a company called Osborne. Dell just showed the world a new and innovative way of marketing them and succeeded. Gillette didn’t hesitate to develop Mach 3 which would kill off its own product Sensor Excel, which was a highly profitable product. Cannibalising your own product is a tough call to take, but that’s what survivors are made of – they don’t fall in love with their old inventions, they move on.

Overnight delivery was not a new concept but FedEx gave a whole new meaning to it. The US Postal Service is still reeling from that one. The automobile industry in the 50’s and 60’s was in an enviable position. However, during the 70’s oil crisis, consumers demanded smaller fuel-efficient vehicles and only those who stood up and took notice reaped rich dividends. No wonder, Japanese auto-makers easily captured the US car market.

There is no guarantee of continued market dominance where technological innovation is possible. If you need to survive you need to keep innovating and changing. It’s not necessary to discover something new. You just need to be alert about the best practices and incorporate them. “Shamelessly copy best practices,” says Jack Welch. That’s innovation for you. Throughout its history, Japan excelled at finding the best the world had to offer and then adapted and improved it. It is this that accounted for its stunning economic growth between 1945 and 1985.

Just being a pioneer is no big deal. Nearly 47% of all market pioneers fail. Chucks invented the disposable diapers, yet it’s Pampers (of P&G) which is the leader. It was not Coke or Pepsi that invented the diet cola but a company called Royal Crown Cola. Ericsson was the first mover in the mobile market, but Nokia realised that it was design which appealed more to the consumers. Nokia leads the mobile phone market today. Similarly, Matsushita has always got a piggy ride on other firm’s inventions (like Sony), rarely inventing anything new. It just identifies the winning products, makes them and markets them well.

So if you have not been the first mover or have nor been able to invent something new, don’t worry. Gillette didn’t invent the safety razer, it was a company called Star! Gillette marketed it brilliantly. In fact iPhone is not as good as the original called IBM Simon which was priced at $900 back in 1994 and had most of the features found in today’s smart phones. In fact its buttonless touch screen interface was better than iPhones. Yet, the IBM Simon flopped.

History is proof that it’s not the largest, strongest or fastest that survive, but the ones who are ready to adapt. And sometimes it’s actually good to be the second best. As Avis once stated in its ads “We are No. 2, that’s why we try harder.”

Spot a winning product, a winning trend, keep an eye on customers needs, be flexible and don’t sit on your initial successes, for competitors are always keeping an eagle eye on you. Keep moving, try a lot of things, but keep only those that work and quickly discard those that don’t. Henry Ford once said “I believe, the best strategy is to be the first person to be second.” After all, first ain’t always good enough!

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