advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New AOL logo: “'s going to be very, very, very inexpensive.”

At first, I was was like, geez-zuz does that statement from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong sum up how clients approach spending money on their identity. But, then, I’ve also given crap to companies for overspending on the very same thing.

It’s easy to say AOL’s challenges, like Yahoo’s, go beyond identity, and reinforces what anyone in advertising would say to or about a client with a brand problem: Fix your product first.

Sure sounds like AOL was trying to do that by getting out of the Time Warner deal and now with that statement. While I’m too busy to figure it out, there has to be a correlation between brands in trouble and the number of times they rebrand hoping it will cure their ills. (I don’t mean a brand with a dated look that truly needs a facelift either.)

The new AOL look is part of a “more holistic brand presence” to be unveiled in December, but at the risk of jumping the gun, it hits you the wrong way when a CEO brushes off an identity like that, almost apologizing for it, simply because they didn’t spend enough money? Does this mean a dev came up with it in-house? Wouldn’t the “branding’ firm have done it?

If not, then why spend additional money on branding if all you care about are costs. Any designer with even a little self-respect left is feeling real proud right about now that their work is being excused for being cheaper.

Does this mean they’ll save money by not running an ad campaign too? Maybe Tim will direct them. They’ve spent a lot in the past on yellow logo man thing as well as the TV to support it. While I loved the Super bowl spots with Orange County Choppers, don’t try and tell me a logo design was going to break the bank this time around.

Maybe if they didn’t send out all those CDs over the years, they could’ve had a nice little design war chest built up by now.

Say what you will about Web 2.0 style, and I have, but at least the current crop of social networks and their third-party friends look like they belong in the space. This logo “study in progress” is trying way too hard to be modern—a few years ago.

I’m being a Monday morning quarterback about this after seeing the logo direction, but here’s where I would’ve come out: Pepsi missed a once in a lifetime chance to open its logo redesign up to the world because their marketing director had visions of grand brand moves and “big idea” ad campaigns.

In the end, all they delivered though was more of the same. (Again, Coke owns Pepsi in ads and now social media.) Same too with Yahoo. AOL could’ve also tried it.

Why not have everyone take a shot at your logo? (NOT crowdsourcing either, so relax.)

For global brands supposedly built around global communities and relevance to same, why not experiment more? (The idea of global is dead anyway since everything online is at once local and global. Hyper Global! New term, Web 2.0 bitches. Wiki that shit.) But to brands like these, setting up a Twitter is about as hardcore as it gets between them and their respective audiences.

Or if AOL looks at from a cost angle, the PR/earned media off that would pay for a whole new batch of CDs. Strike that. Flash drives. Until I’m completely living la vida cloud, THOSE I can use.

(See, AOL, the cloud is this concept that... oh, nevermind.)

UPDATE: In talking with design firm Wolff Olins’ PR arm, I questioned whether they felt Armstrong’s comments were a little out of place. The feeling back is that with the branding being tied into the spin-off, it's not surprising that he's pushing the thrift angle relative to overall marketing spend, and to that same point, the idea was to talk and get people talking.

While I agree it’s done that, I’m not generally a fan of “Any PR is good PR.”



Anonymous said...

i love how AOL is now a word. and when you say that word, it sounds like a-hole.

Andy Wright said...

Great post. Does look suspiciously like another ailing brand hoping a facelift will make them more attractive.

Could be time for AOL to go back to basics. Just hope that the new identity was created with a bigger strategy in mind.

I've also written about AOL on Like your blog have recommended it to my readers.