Almost every place I’ve ever worked, some mid-to-high level person in marketing is completely obsessed with the logo. They need a specific logo for every project, event, sub-project, etc. and often we’d be in six-seven meetings speaking about these logos. Someone would always bring up Apple or Nike, as if this rinky-dink bullshit place I was working had the global scale of Nike. Meanwhile that’s six hours of my life I’ll absolutely never see again.
I don’t think most people really understand what “branding” even is. We make a huge deal out of “brand messaging” — which is wrong — and of “staying on brand,” which means something different to virtually everyone. You’d actually probably get more ROI from marketing departments if you killed off “branding” as something they need to “own.”
Obviously that’s never going to happen — everyone running companies these days came up in an era when “branding” was equivalent to your first-born child. In the last decade, customer experience has become much more important than branding, but most execs can’t keep up. Don’t even get me started on digital tools and long-term strategy. No. They want a powerful brand.
Stands to reason a powerful brand begins from a logo. Nike, right?
Buried near the bottom of a Stanford article is this…
Here’s the article, and BAM:
Logos are important because the human brain is wired to recognize icons. One MIT study found that the brain can recognize concepts with images in as little as 13 milliseconds. But if a logo doesn’t have a story or meaning behind it, it’s less powerful, Yu says, and if the logo is “all you have to rely on to create your iconic advantage, you’re going to lose.”
If that’s all you have — i.e. if that’s all you meet about, want to discuss, want to breathlessly analyze proofs of? You’re going to lose.
Now bring in this other idea
This is from an article on “experts needing to know how to tell stories:”
I recently reached out to a colleague who is also a former journalist to ask him why his company’s messaging wasn’t as plain as I knew his writing to be. His response was that the technical experts who reported to the C-suite insisted on rewriting his copy. The company’s leaders were unintentionally doing themselves a disservice by complicating — and watering down — their messages highlighting the organization’s competitive advantages and technical expertise. No surprise, the organization remains frustrated that it’s not getting recognized for its amazing work. The main reason: complex stories require different marketing approaches. If your traditional communications strategy isn’t working, try hiring professional storytellers.
OK. Now let’s take these two together.
Marketing teams focus on the wrong stuff
This is what you usually see them focus on:
- Campaign assets
This is what they need to focus on:
- What’s the value of the product/service?
- How can stories about that value be told?
- Can customers become storytellers/ambassadors?
- Is it possible to create a community around what we do?
- How can we be clear and simple in our messaging?
Why is there such a gap between the lists?
The first list is stuff you can control and update. You can put it in project management tools. Everyone feels very comfortable then. Check boxes. Hit KPIs. Go home around 5.
The second list requires you to actually understand the strategy and priority of where you work and what you do. Who has time for that shit? Tom needs this email marketing campaign and its assets in 45 minutes. I’ll just go do that.
This is why most marketing sucks
Same reason broader work sucks for a lot of people: the focus is often on what you can control, as opposed to what would actually do a productive job of reaching the outcome.
An email marketing campaign with no story, context, tie to strategy, priority within the hierarchy of other ideas, etc?
It’s absolutely meaningless. It’s 1s and 0s being pushed into the universe, signifying nothing.
And yet companies do that every day.
Because it was in some project tool and someone said “Well, I have to get an image of this size and then push the text over to this person…”
And if that email, meaningless as it was, was never sent? A bunch of people would be yelled at. Called into meetings. Dressed down.
When the focus is control, creativity and strategy usually aren’t walking through that door.
That’s the problem with most marketing teams — and, well, with work as a whole.