Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Pepsi logo and font: What went wrong

If you confuse the the new Pepsi logo and packaging with a store brand, it's understandable.

It is an ambitious effort to re-brand a line of products such as this, but perhaps PepsiCo over-thought the effort. Nike has brilliantly made its symbol synonymous with its corporate name, but I don't foresee this happening with Pepsi. The company should revisit the brand and start with the typography, and hope that the consumer smiles when they say "Pepsi," instead of trying to own the smile and hoping that the consumer thinks of Pepsi when they smile.

The new Pepsi brand has the look of and creates the perception of a store brand, and here's why:

The visual symbol: The familiar red and blue circle has been replaced by a mark that seems inspired by animé or aerospace. Under Consideration compares them side-by-side, with quotes from Ad Age and BVNet:
"The brand's blue and red globe trademark will become a series of "smiles," with the central white band arcing at different angles depending on the product."
While the intent may have been sincere, it's poorly executed (what consumer is going to notice that each brand has a different angle?) Perhaps each bottle will soon include a legend to let the consumer know what the smile means. Perhaps the last three years of election cycle rubbed off on the brand as well, with its similarity to the Obama campaign logo.

The typography: The Pepsi logo, set in lower case, alludes to vintage typography (disco anyone?) while trying to be modern. Stem and stroke weights differ, and joins bloat. This lettering was possible accomplished with a Rapid-o-graph pen, straight edge and circle template. It reflects years of amateur-looking type design in the packaging and advertising industry, and reminds me of type downloaded from a free font site.

The color palette: Eeeeew. It's not friendly, it makes me wonder if I'd actually enjoying drinking what's in the bottle. It's depressing. The entire dark palette of colors on the packaging seems to infer that PepsiCo is taking itself much too seriously.

The packaging: some of the comments at Under Consideration suggest that the new small bottles have similarities to, well, other objects. While the design of two-liter bottles (show here) don't change much, the wrapper combines all of the shortcomings of symbol, color and typography into a tired-looking design.

Who's thirsty? ;-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lessons to learn, or how to think about our economy

Ladies and gentlemen, please take note: It is not The End of The World as We Know It, nor is the sky falling. At least not yet.

Talk to many business owners or officers, and they are tired of the constant barrage of dour predictions and glum faces telling them that economically, there is no hope for our future. Especially those whose businesses are thriving.

Positiveeconomicnews.com carries a poll, showing that 44% of its readers are "concerned but optimistic" about the economic future (including this writer). And it notes that consumer confidence is up for the second month in a row (U of Michigan/Reuters) (lesson to learn: don't use only one poll to base your opinions on). If you're obsessive about consumer confidence, you can monitor it at the Conference Board.
"Consumers' short-term outlook was less pessimistic. Those anticipating business conditions to worsen over the next six months declined to 28.1 percent from 36.5 percent, while those expecting conditions to improve rose to 11.4 percent from 9.6 percent.

The outlook for the labor market was also less negative. The percent of consumers anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead declined to 33.3 percent from 41.5 percent, while those expecting more jobs increased to 9.2 percent from 7.3 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes increased to 13.3 percent from 11.1 percent."

Lesson to learn: get your news from the source, and not the media. I know, you'll have to work harder for it, but it's worth it. Trust me.

Small and mid-sized businesses are really the engine of the economy, as noted by strategic thinker Deborah Mills-Scofield:
"Small/mid-sized companies are growth engines of local economics – SBA study issued in June 2008: High-Impact Firms: Gazelles Revisited – updated version of a study they did in the 80’s focused on firms with significant revenue growth and expanding employment."
What is the national economy, but a collection of sub-economies? Lesson to learn: Right now is a time of opportunity and possibility for your business.

So turn off the news, stop reading the dire news, and get back to work. America is depending on you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My favorite Christmas CD

Almost 10 years ago, Al Di Meola released Winter Nights, his first, and (AFAIK) only holiday recording. One of my favorites, I've added a few, including Phil Keaggy, Vince Guaraldi, George Winston and Jars of Clay to the Altered Ego store on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch)

My high school economics teacher, Mr. Ernie Watts, taught me this valuable lesson: TANSTAAFL, or (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

There's no such thing as free health care, free government programs, free anything. Who's paying for them? The 80% of small businesses that drive the US economy.

The credit crunch and government bailout certainly affects small business, which will continue to plow ahead and keep the economy running and create the economic recovery.

At this point in time, the wealthy (and those trying to create wealth) pay the majority of taxes. More than one researcher confirms that the rich really do pay higher taxes. Small businesses, you're the next target... assuming you're trying to create wealth, and after the election, of course.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Place branding: information as a government service

A municipality that does not have a relevant and content-rich web site that allows the administration to supply information is at a perceptual and economic disadvantage.

It's mystifying that the perspective is that a web site is inherently a technology platform only, and therefore in the realm of the IT department, still exists. In this context, a web site is a marketing and communications platform, and should be considered as part of the responsibility of a chief information officer. It doesn't take an IT department to create a web site.

What better way for a municipality to communicate with, disseminate information to, or manage information for citizens and the media?

A place especially needs differentiation and positioning to start to create a positive perception.

From the mundane (when is my garbage collected after a holiday?) to the functional (can I pay my water bill online?) to the strategic (why do we need to support a tax levy again?), a site should set vision, and generate good will for the municipality.

The perceptual disadvantage allows the local media, citizen pundits on local web-based forums, and the uniformed to create their own perceptions of what's really going on with the local government. Where there is no information, the people will make up their own opinions, informed or not.

The economic disadvantage allows other communities, who have relevant and compelling content about their municipalities, to inform prospective residents and businesses, current residents and business owners, and other interested parties, why the community is thriving and attractive. It's basic economic development: attraction, retention and expansion.

People will find information about a municipality online, good or bad. Of course this is the root of branding: It's not what an administration thinks about their municipality (or organization), but it's what they (constituents) think, that is important. And if a municipality has nothing relevant or meaningful upon which they can create informed perceptions, citizens will create their own perceptions, right or wrong.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm a PC. Of course, I sell fish.

Jerry and Dean were funny. Jerry and Bill? Sort of. The Shoe store schtick wasn't funny at all. The house guest schtick would have been funnier if it had been edited to say, one minute 30 seconds.

Why does Microsoft void mentioning Windows? "I'm a PC?" Why not just say, "I'm generic."

Steve Ballmer rightly said in an internal email, echoing our opinion (thanks to Apple Insider:)
"In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving," Ballmer wrote in the email. "Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience."
Gee, ya think? Let's see: computer, Mac OSX, iPod, iTunes. I'm good. What you got? Operating system, MP3 player (what was that called again...oh yeah, Zune), Xbox. What do you run that OS on again?

Today's lesson: the power of a word or name to evoke an experience is powerful. It connects the customer to the company. Perhaps it's time for a name change for Microsoft?

Has anybody seen my nail clippers?

9/25/08: Fast Company renders a summary of reactions and response to the ads. Successful? You decide!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm a Mac. How about you?

AppleInsider reports that Microsoft is going to spoof the Mac ads.

This is LOL funny, and a bit disturbing:
"Also beginning Thursday night, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant will invite visitors to the website to upload videos and photos that will demonstrate "how they, too, are PCs." Microsoft will reportedly select some of the photos to appear on electronic billboards in Times Square beginning the following day, while others will be used in advertisement banners."
Did I miss something? Do PCs really evoke the same sense of affinity with their users as do Macs? Microsoft is a software company (ok, not counting XBox and Zune, but that adds weight to my theory). What does it take for an individual to consider themselves part of the tribe of PC users? Where are the telltale earbuds, Windows XP/Vista stickers on cars, lines of people waiting when a store opens?

As a hardware & software company, Apple has engaged most of my senses and sensibilities. Sight, touch, hearing, usability. Even the name evokes taste. Not isolated, but at any time a combination of a minimum of two senses creates an experience.

Maybe Microsoft needs to start making computers?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Everybody's a critic

Recently, Sooy + Co. received an email with a blistering criticism about a branding project we completed for a public school system:
Message : How dare you call Lorain City Schools new clip art a logo. What did you do a Google search and find some stupid hand clip and then make up the color story. How dare you make Lorain the laughing stock of our County. We are smart enough to know good design, this isn't an example of it. Shame on you for not having the professional integrity to actually design something.
Did it offend us? No, we had a good laugh over it, and our staff discussed how to respond. With proper grammar, of course.

Perhaps some people would prefer the old logo that resembles paper dolls, sandwiched between an image of a light house and what appeared to be two-color toothpaste squeezed from a tube. Seriously. We think our solution is a new take on an old cliché.

Some possible responses we considered:
"Why yes, we were in a hurry and all we had time for was a quick Google search for stupid hand clip. Is that bad?"

"You're right. Our branding process is designed with the possible outcome of creating laughing stocks, but only when the creative brief calls for it. We must have missed the mark. Or do you mean la vache qui ri?"

"We all missed the professional integrity classes in college due to a quarter-to semester-change. Thank you for pointing out the flaw in our education, we are looking into a distance learning class in order to make it up."
With the democratization of design comes the democratization of drive-by design criticism.

Drive-by design criticism is defined as:
"Drive-by criticism is a reaction to an observation or experience, whereby the uninformed renders an opinion about something they know nothing about."
It can be rephrased as "I don't know what I like until I see it, and I know I don't like that."

On the other hand, design critique (or professional design criticism) is an exercise by students or design professionals to review and evaluate a design solution based on any number of criteria, such as form to function, the three core elements of visual design: contrast, balance and unity, appropriateness of solution to problem, and usability. Among other criteria, of course.

The individual sharing their criticism with us had no idea what the design brief called for, the client's objectives, or why we chose red, green and white to represent diversity instead of brown, beige and red.

Drive-by design criticism is a corollary to the General Theory of Design: "Design consists of creating things for clients who may not know what they want, until they see what you've done, then they know exactly what they want, but it's not what you did."

No, we don't use Google to search for clip art. We're professionals, with design degrees. We don't skeet shoot in the dark, nor do we allow our clients do so. We accept, as should any professional design firm, valid and well-informed design critique. But we really can't figure out what inspires a rant like we received.

To our drive-by critic: Thanks for writing. We're sorry that you were having a bad day, and hope that things are looking up for you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rowing in the opposite direction

Does it seem to you that many well-meaning business interests and special interest groups are rowing in the wrong direction?

In Ohio: The Governor's efforts to forge a compromise on the so-called "Healthy Families Act" have failed. That means that the issue, which will be Issue 4 on the November ballot, will go to the voters.

According to a study by the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio, is what those who vote in favor of the issue will be voting:
  • The loss of 75,000 jobs
  • A $1.17 billion burden on Ohio employers
  • The loss of $9.4 billion in sales from 2008 to 2012
The ballot issue seeks to mandate 7 paid days of sick leave for employees of companies employing 25 or more people. And to be able to take that one hour at a time.

When other groups are trying to 1) Create opportunities for economic development in the state, and 2) create jobs in the state, what are these groups thinking? What small business would want to move or set up operations in Ohio, with that kind of mandate to follow, especially, if passed, Ohio was the only state with that kind of law?

The state should not be able to take away an employer's rights to negotiate with employees.

Postscript 9/4/08: Today’s big business news is that labor leaders have dropped a state ballot initiative...

Postscript 9/5/08: Look for this initiative to be considered on a federal level...

I'm sure this blog post had something to do with it...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Goodbye Treo, Hello iPhone 3G

Goodbye Treo 700. I will miss you. After years of spending time with you and your family (since when they were called Palm Pilots), I have left you.

It's not that we don't have anything in common, after all, I feel that we've grown closer since we've worked through the syncing issues between you and Microsoft Entourage. With the Missing Sync as a mediator, we made it through. But... you still are quirky, and I just need something more.

I won't miss the random resets, random freezing, and that annoying stubby antenna. Hey! Remember that time when I dropped you and it broke off? Sorry, I didn't mean to make it personal. But then again, after so many years and new models, you still didn't manage to slim down, you were always like a brick in my pocket.

I've been waiting to do this for a long time, hoping that I would change my mind. I even considered upgrading you to a Palm Centro... but it just wouldn't have been the same. Besides, you arrived at the Verizon party too late.

So after a year, it's true. I was seen in line at the Apple store at 7:30 am after driving for 45 minutes, cup of coffee in hand. Yes, I was enjoying the experience, the anticipation. And shortly after 8 am, she was mine.

Even with a Contour Design Hardskin, she's still only half as thick as you are. And she syncs with Entourage just by plugging her in. I even have hope for a new syncing experience through e2Sync. So maybe instead of needing more, I needed less. Sorry if that hurts you.

It will cost me more per month for her service, the Apple iPhone 3G... but she's worth it. You see, to me she's more than a phone, she plays my music, reminds me where to be, and who my contacts are. She's everything!

Maybe we'll see each other sometime. I know I'll think of you when I see someone else making a call on a phone like you. Take care. But please, just don't call me. It's time to move on.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Receding hairlines and typographic mistakes

So, I am not the only one. Christopher Phin joins the typographic soirée just a few weeks ago with this short but sweet top-ten list of common typographic errors.

You may not agree that the decimal point in prices is incorrect — (interpunct anyone?) this may be an UK convention that we threw into the bay with the tea — but his list is worth a quick read and should be committed to memory.

Note: in case you didn't notice, Phin is from the UK. They have other typographic practices that many in the US find unusual (such as omitting periods from abbreviations such as Dr and Mr), but that's OK. It's not wrong, just different.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ned wears a square halo at the world's end

A shout out to Ned Bustard, art director for Square Halo Books, and principal of World's End Images, for kindly counting Brian Sooy as an influence in his work in design and publishing.

Ned's comments appeared in the April 2008 CIVA Seen, the newsletter from Christians in the Visual Arts, about his influences and inspiration.

Ned is very entrepreneurial, and designs the most beautiful books, and has a wonderful sense of political humor. You can see how he makes wonderful use of Altered Ego's American Spirit font.

Thanks Ned! You're a saint.