“House burglar turned security consultant,” Jeremy Hildreth reflects on the purpose of logos and slogans in place branding. A slogan creator and place branding practitioner with Saffron for many years, Jeremy recently changed his approach, following a realization that his energies and creative powers would be better invested in “devising dramatic actions and policy recommendations for places, which, if implemented, can transform (or at least adjust) places’ images and reputations.”
Why place marketers and branders use logos and slogans
In the academic journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, names and landmarks are a frequent topic. The consensus (judging by journal contributions) seems to be that brand logos and slogans are overrated as a means to create, improve, or sustain, a favorable image of a place (country, city, region, destination – you name it).
So why are the marketing managers of places so obsessed with logos and slogans? According to Jeremy, there are several answers:
Letterhead needs something in the upper right-hand corner
Places, or place-promoting organizations, like any corporate entity, require a certain amount of graphic design to function normally; this can’t be escaped no matter how fundamentally correct the ‘logos aren’t very powerful levers in the grand scheme of things’ view is.
Ease of purchase
Graphic design, headlines and other types of identification and communications can be bought, by a single department head, out of this year’s budget. By contrast, a recognizable skyline, a world-famous ancient monument or an 8 per cent GDP growth rate – all of which are more attractive than the most beautiful logo or sonorous strapline – are far harder to come by.
Prestige and pleasure
Like shopping for fancy clothes, procuring graphic design or other creative work makes the buyer feel that his or her place and organization are important. Moreover, like shopping, it’s a lot of fun having talented people with taste flattering you with their attentions, trying to please you by bringing you things to look at, ponder and choose from (the way a design process typically transpires).
Peer pressure and one-upsmanship
You don’t want to be the only place to show up at a big international conference without a polished brand identity; how would that look?! When ‘everybody’s doing it’, bad habits prove especially hardy, and the desire to out-compete one’s rivals – to stand out favorably and slickly from the crowd, but not by too much – induces a cycle of bigger budgets and ever more mannered and less distinguished place brand identities.
So what? Jeremy: Even if logos and slogans pale in effectiveness compared with other identity management tools, if a place is going to have them – and it probably is – they might as well be halfway decent; there’s no argument there.
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