Bright logos in a sea of dull things

The other day, as I was driving through a bleak suburban stretch of malls, parking lots and highway on-ramps, I was struck by the power of a good logo. The logo in question, a big bold letter on a bright blue background, flooded the area with a sense of possibility and made me want to shop at the mall it was touting. That, to me, is the power of a good logo.

We often hear that logos and brands aren't the same thing. Logos are the graphical representation of a brand, but do not contain the promise, experience and offer of a company's brand. A brand, of course, is built up over years. It shines when all of a company's pistons are firing properly (from the person who answers the phone, to the quality of the product, to the news in the investment section of the newspaper, and so on). It seems sometimes that in saying these things about brands, that we relegate a logo to some lesser place, say piston 7 of a V8.

My experience viewing this bright letter on a blue backdrop, in a drab location where there are many shopping malls to choose from, shows that this is not entirely the case. That bright letter had value. The shops in this mall, I said to myself, must be of a higher calibre than those across the street.

If your logo is the face of your brand, would you not want it to have the effect of this big bold letter? I believe in times where the economic news sometimes seems as austere as the area I described, a bold logo can provide a competitive advantage, a call to action that inspires and invites your target audience to engage with you (and not with the other place, that has a lesser logo).

I've since gone to the mall in question, and it is of a higher calibre than the one across the street.


The Facebook 'Fad'?

Facebook is not a fad. I say this because I don't feel that its popularity will slow anytime soon. This is because of Metcalfe’s law. Let me explain...

The general idea behind
Metcalfe’s law is that the larger a network grows, the more valuable it becomes, because every new person who joins the network adds value to everyone else who is on the network. A good example of this phenomenon at work is user forums. Online forums are where people go to get their questions answered. The more members that join a forum, the faster questions will be answered, and the more diverse the opinions and skill levels - thus adding value to the network.

This notion of more sign-ups raising the value of a program has the opposite effect for some things, however. If you consider how a contest works, your chances of winning go down the more people you invite to enter.

The value of
Xbox Live, an online gaming community, certainly goes up as more people sign on, and it was a player's dream when it hit 10 million users over the holidays! (Marketing Profs Podcast, 2008).

The same can be said for
iPods, but the type of value increase is slightly different. For every person who buys an iPod, the community of iPod fans is strengthened, increasing the 'bandwagon' effect, and resulting in higher sales for Apple.

Now back to my initial prediction for
Facebook. Over the month of December, 2007, Toronto became the first North American city to have over one million subscribers to Facebook (Zinc Research, 2007), and approximately half of online Canadians were said to be on Facebook in December, which is almost double the rate of a few months earlier!

This constant growth for Facebook is a success that can be attributed to the workings of Metcalfe's law, and it is the reason I don't see the trend slowing down anytime soon.

Can you think of a product or tool, online or offline, which is self-reinforcing?


SMSing it to the "Man"

A former police officer who helps defend people against traffic tickets has started a new service notifying subscribers where police officers are checking people for speeding.

For 50 cents per message, subscribers will be notified by text message when and where speed traps are on highways or certain areas of the city.

Is this ethically correct to you? Do you find this right? wrong? Does this promote drivers to speed?

You decide:



Magic 2008-Ball

Open any newspaper in the English-speaking world at the threshold of a new year and, invariably, you'll find loads of predictions for what's to come. In my view, it's wise to keep a couple of things in mind when it comes to predictions.

The first is that they tend to be either so vague that, while correct, they lack any real prognosticative power, or so precise that they have little chance of accuracy. The second is that they tend to say more about the person making the predictions than they say about the future. For example, a pessimist is likely to see dire outcomes. An optimist is likely to see positive things coming up. But this is as it should be.

And with those two caveats out of the way, this blogger will make some of his own predictions about brands and social marketing:

1. Most business models based around social marketing platforms that do not yet exist will be a tough sell. This is simply because of human behaviour — how many social networks can you really be a part of? With one in four (!) Canadians on Facebook - and so many of those Canadians spending A LOT of time on Facebook - you tell me how easy it will be to convince them of another, better social network (this year, anyway).

2. My parents' generation is about to start finding old classmates from the fifties and sixties through Facebook. That means baby boomers will soon be swarming all over Facebook if they aren't there already.

3. Products and brands will start to sponsor successful Facebook apps, and even start coming up with some of their own. There are two business plans to look out for in 2008. The first involves those savvy marketing departments (and their savvy agencies) leveraging the fun and sometimes silly apps that make Facebook what it is. The second is the makers of said apps going after cool sponsorship opportunities.

4. A fourth prediction far away from Facebook is that more brands will get busted for "greenwashing" (greenwashing is when you try to paint your brand green without actually doing anything for the environment), and yet more brands will start to get green product development right. Is the latter my hope for 2008? It is decidedly so.