Friday, April 15, 2005

Loco Logo Slavery

I'll say it up front, before you do. I don't get it. My son tells me I don't get it. My wife tells me I don't get it. The man in the moon, if he knew me personally, would tell me that I don't get it. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the issue that I don't get.

Logos. Most of the companies I have ever owned have had a logo of some type. A logo is a simple way to build brand recognition without spelling out the name of the company or product. Generally, logos are good.

Years ago, I wanted to build some brand recognition for my courier company and hit upon the idea of giving away T-shirts with our corporate logo on them. I had shirts made up using a stylized Volkswagen image we used at the time, with the slogan "Helix was here" printed underneath. The shirts were popular. We gave away a bunch and the promotion was a resounding success.

It would never have occurred to me, back in the 70's when I ran the promotion, to sell the shirts. Why? I don't think I'm stupid and I certainly try to find every honest avenue to turn a buck, so why wouldn't I have hit upon the idea to sell the shirts?

It's simple. While I have a low opinion of people when they become a mass or a horde or a group or a mob or a collective, I still think individual beings have the capability to think, to act in their own best interests and to avoid stupid and unproductive behaviour. Maybe I'm wrong.

Explain to me why it is that people willingly lay out several times the real worth of a T-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, or a pair of sneakers because there is a Nike or a Reebok or a Tommy label on it? As today's typical university graduate with a degree in English Literature might say: "It don't make no sense."

A logo is a form of branding. A small image on a shoe or a shirt is OK. It tells anyone who likes the cut or the fit of the product that it was made by company 'X' rather than by company 'Y' or 'Z.' Nothing wrong with that, is there? It is when the logo is large enough to be seen from space that I see red, as well as the offending image. When I see someone walking towards me, 100 yards or more away and I can ready 'Tommy' on the front of his shirt, what do you think I think? Perhaps: "Wow. What a nice shirt. That guy has really good taste and he must have a lot of money if he can afford to pay $50 for a $15 product."

No, that's not it. What actually goes through my mind is: "Idiot."

When a company logo takes up all of the available real estate on a product they are selling to you, it is no longer branding. It is advertising. I used to own a small advertising company. When my company produced ads for customers, the customers paid to promote their products. Wherever the ads were placed, in newspapers, in magazines, wherever, someone was compensated for the space that was used to advertise the product. If someone is willing to walk around with "Tommy" written on his chest in letters six inches high, he should be compensated for helping promote the Hilfiger corporation to thousands of people.

I don't blame the companies for this nonsense. They are, after all, trying to make a buck. That is what they are supposed to do. They need to pay their employees and generate a return on investment for their shareholders. I blame the people who think that somehow a product is worth three times more because the corporate logo is on it and who are additionally willing to be unpaid traveling billboards for billion dollar companies.

There. I'm glad I got that off my chest. And guess what: Tommy and Nike have never occupied that space on my body, thank goodness.

However, there is always a first time.
For rent:
Manly chest on
Canadian curmudgeon


  1. Well, we're talking quality real estate here. And no six-pack abs to break up the flatness of the terrain. Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe I should be giving the space away after all. It really can't be worth that much.

  2. That was great!

    I remember when I was much younger, watching my peers walking around in sweatshirts that shouted: Esprit and thinking the exact same thing... "You pay these people to advertise for them?".. Wow.

    I remember thinking that either the general populace was generally stupid or there were a few very crafty geniuses out there.

    I have, myself, more recently, worn a John-Deere t-shirt that was purchased for me. But, my favorite shirt was made by a friend of mine who knew what kind of sayings and symbols I liked. I have enjoyed that t-shirt so much, that I intend to always make my own original labels.

    I think an easy answer to this label-phenomenon (I dropped out of my sociology class right before this subject came up, however), is that it is easy.

    It is easy to pay someone to form an identity for you. You know what you like, or what you think you wish to belong to and Hilfiger covers it, so bam, sixty dollars later, you are in.

    On a side note, I always believed that italics and bolding during commenting were like hand-waving in conversation.. completely unneccessary if are able to use the language well. However, lately I am a hippocrite.

    OH yeah.. confession: I own a brand name ski jacket and I've never skied. Ouch.

  3. You know on the back of bathroom stalls those 11x14 plexiglass ads that say, "Ad space - Right here!" You sell a t-shirt like that and I'll buy one.

    Did I just give away another brilliant idea?

  4. Thanks, Penny, love that idea for a T-shirt. Sounds like a great venture for some young person to start, not a fossil like me.

    I too have generally tried to avoid italics and bolding but find myself using both more and more on my blog and in emails. There appears to be less reading these days and more scanning or skimming and I suppose we are accommodating those practises. Aren't we? Say yes, to make me feel less like a cheat.

    I do own some T-shirts that have 'stuff' on them. My favourite has the slogan: Real Men Don't Read Instructions.

  5. skimming.. yes, skimming got me into trouble at school.. there should be a book: The Art of Skimming. Or, "Skimming for Dummies". Or, "University for Bloggers and IM users alike."