Branding without Branding
Not really a rant, but it’s Tuesday, so we’re stuck. But anyway. When our nephew was out and we were doing car stuff, we cruised by Western Exterminator so he could see the Little Man sculptures on their trucks. They ended up being the nicest exterminators you’d ever want to meet, and very proud of the Little Man (note the spring attached to the hammerhead so it’s animated when the trucks drive). Which got me to thinking about logos and (hobbyhorse, I know) marketing.
The Little Man is more than a logo – he’s kind of an institution in Los Angeles. He’s not just known, but loved. And I also think he’s emblematic of the company. Of course it wouldn’t be as successful as it is if the company was terrible, but I also think the reverse is true. Somebody at the top is bright enough to embrace a really great mascot logo and not update or eliminate it. Northwest Airlines criminally changed their logo and shortly afterward, they died merged. Washington Mutual became WaMu and died. I think it’s in part because the company leadership didn’t understand their companies, or at least speaks of a kind of administrative chaos. But I’m digressing.
What got me about WE was the preponderance of other logos that were created before there was branding or marketing as we know it today. Coca-Cola, Ford, Lucky Strikes, even Nike. They were just drawn by really good designers (or in the case of WE, Yellowpages ad artists (or Ford’s accountant)). These logos escaped groupthink by being the product of an artist and a decision-maker. I think that’s the key. Any time you’ve got a committee made up of people who do nothing and have essentially no power, but who simply block the door between the creative and the executive, you get washed out crap like NWA.
The Little Man is a strong reminder of what can be done when the process makes sense. The question I have is why isn’t it like this more often? And how did marketers get in there?