Monday 18 October 2010

Let´s get rid of the logo dictatorship

The inclusion of the sponsor´s logo in all promotional materials is what cultural institutions usually give in return when looking for support for the production and promotion of their projects. The inclusion of their logo in all promotional materials is what institutions interested in sponsoring a cultural project usually expect in return. The cultural institution aims to give recognition to the importance of the sponsorship. The sponsoring institution aims to guarantee visibility for its brand among consumers.

The logo is a brand´s visual extension. A brand represents and identity, it aims to transmit a set of values. Organizations interested in sponsoring our projects are not aiming to take on the role of a charity. They are not supporting us because they feel sorry for us for not having enough money. They are doing it because the association to a specific event reinforces the value of their brand in the eyes of the consumers.

Many cultural projects rely on sponsorship and different kinds of support, both for production and promotion. Rarely, nevertheless, is this support hierarchized in terms of its ‘value’, monetary or other (but which should be somehow quantified). Thus, instead of this hierachization, that would aim to give in return something proportional to the ‘value’ of each partner´s contribution, what we usually see is an egalitarian treatment, limited to the inclusion of the partners´ logo in all promotional materials. Thus, radio station X, which supports the promotion of a cultural event at 100% (producing and transmitting a publicity spot, interviewing those involved and making other references), receives in return the same thing radio station Y gets for offering a substantial discount for a publicity campaign, but getting, nevertheless, paid for it. To give another example, company of transport X, that supports producing and putting up in its vehicles / carriages / boats posters of the event gets in return the same as transport company Y, that puts up posters produced by the promoter of the event, many times in smaller quantities. Why would then the Xs be interested in continuing to fully support if they would be able to get in return the same with a smaller contribution, similar to the one of the Ys? Aren´t cultural institutions losing in terms of negotiation when they treat al partners equally?

The result of these undifferentiated negotiations is normally a forest of logos in the footer of promotional materials, which leaves both sides very satisfied: the cultural institution because it shows its appreciation to its partner; the sponsor because its brand becomes associated to an event it considers to be of quality. Let´s see some examples of this in the ads of this weekend´s newspapares:

Let´s put ourselves for a while in the consumers´ shoes. After all, we are all consumers. Do we ever really notice the tiny icons accumulated in the footers of posters, newspaper ads and flyers (unless, of course, we are ourselves looking for partners for a specific event, so we take out the magnifying glass and try to identify possible partners in the materials of the others)? Isn´t it true that our eyes simply pass over all this? Is a cultural institution being honest with its partners when it´s promising them visibility and recognition in this way? Are sponsoring institutions being realistic when they are aiming at all costs for the inclusion of their logo in promotional materials as a means of reinforcing their brand´s value in the eyes of the consumers? I would particularly like to draw your attention to some logos in these ads that are not known to the general public. Are they really creating awareness among the consumers in this way? Does anyone know who they are and what they represent?

In my opinion, it only makes sense to include logos in promotional materials when there are up to three important sponsors, to whom visibility can be really guaranteed and which will be able to reinforce their brand´s value by being associated to a specific event. Here´s a good example:

Another way of managing the situation when there are many supporting institutions, which is still very little used, is, instead of including the logo, to make a written reference to the supporting organizations. Our consumers´ eyes pass over the tiny icons, but we still have the tendency to insist on reading. Here´s an example that worked with me, although I might be considered subjective here:

(Unfortunately, the image cannot be sufficiently enlarged in order for the contents to become legible. I am happy to send the document by email to anyone interested.)

The aim of this post is to draw attention to a practice that is being perpetuated without being really evaluated, when, in my opinion, it does not serve the partners´ true objectives. One fundamental issue remains open: so what can we give in return to the institutions whose support, larger or smaller, is fundamental for our projects? This issue will be discussed in another post.

Suggested reading on branding:
Klein, N. (2010). No logo. Fourth Estate (10th Anniversary Edition)
Olins, W. (2007). On brand. Thames and Hudson
Wheeler, A. (2006). Designing brand identity. John Wiley & Sons

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