The One Constant – Change

I was in church last Sunday and realized I haven’t been in quite some time, at least not to my home church. I might not have realized it, were it not for the fact many of the congregation responses in the Mass have changed, ever so slightly. Whoever thought the responses needed fixing, probably weren’t trying to alienate those of us who have not attended regularly in some time. I felt I did not belong, and that probably wasn’t their intent. The changes, while likely based on sound reasoning, really do not add anything to the Mass. They are more a distraction from what was familiar and what I’m used to. It isn’t like 60 years ago, when the ecumenical council under Pope John the 23rd, changed the Mass into the local native language from Latin. That caused an uproar from many who felt the change diluted the mystery of the ritual.

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The most obvious changes are the free-wheeling changes companies now make to their names, logos, and branding. I learned a long time ago this was taboo. If you don’t really have any brand awareness in the consumer’s mind, it doesn’t matter. If you do, however, it is not recommended. The millennials never learned this unbreakable law. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, changes the logo on a whim. Google, gives their logo the same treatment. Sometimes it is necessary, but often it’s spurred by boredom with the familiar.

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The two examples of staying with the same brands I can think of are Wells Fargo Bank and Jolly Green Giant. Both companies have to fight to keep from changing what is widely known by their customers. They have invested in those brand identities, even if they might seem outdated.  The San Francisco Forty Niners tried changing their logo not long ago and the fans revolted, even after they had purchased new helmets for the players with the new “modern” logo. So this is one of those “dead marketing ideas,” that is alive and well and you would be well advised to heed this one.

Have you ever experienced “change” for change sake and didn’t feel comfortable with it like my church experience? Have you tired of your brand identity and desperately wanted to change it?

I recall a time when computer maker Packard Bell relished in knowing that half its customers thought they had bought Hewlett-Packard equipment. Packard Bell was a Dutch company that was bought and sold by a packard-bell-logovariety of manufacturers and is now owned by Acer who also bought Gateway Computers.

So while I remember the Mass in Latin since I had to say it as an altar boy, I can’t say I miss it all that much; although there are people who do, including Mel Gibson’s father.

Corporations should consider the ramifications on the customers when they are thinking of “improving” how they brand themselves. The Catholic church might take a long look at some of the “new” responses and ask themselves, “What did we fix?”

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Tunnels, Logos and Redundancy

tdy036I was the field support manager at Multisonics, Inc., in the mid-seventies when the company hired Donald E. Yost, a retired engineer/operations manager from Fairchild Semiconductor. Don was a colorful fellow and brought in to referee the fighting between our VP of engineering and VP of sales. Don conducted many informative meetings over a year and a half, among the staff at Multisonics, and I was privileged to attend many of them.

One day we were squabbling about some aspect of the development of our System 220  traffic control system, and he told us this story.

He said, “In the west,when we want to build a tunnel through a mountain, we get all the high-tech gear we can lay our hands on. We aim a laser at the mountain and start digging with the best earth moving and tunneling equipment in the world. After several months, we have a perfectly straight tunnel through the mountain, mission accomplished. In china, they have an abundance of people and not the best technology, so they do it differently. They get a large group of people on one side of the mountain, and another group on the other and they dig for months and months. If they meet in the middle, they have a tunnel, if they don’t, they have two.”

This sage advice remained with me and I have put it to use on several occasions. Once, I used it when I needed to change the logo of Computer Aided Management, the authors of ViewPoint, a PC-based project management software product. The change was necessary since the company’s logo consisted of three letters, CAM in a stenciled lettering font. Someone in the media at the time pointed out that it looked warlike and reminded them of Cambodia.

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The project to get a new logo was already underway through a design firm in Sausalito, California when I was hired at CAM. So I inherited their design effort but was not impressed with the way they treated me, their progress, or the design, so I proceeded to commission another design firm to produce a logo as well. The new company was very responsive, took the time necessary to dig into our business and our product, and produced a killer design using a symbol we used in the product. The first company’s effort looked like a poor rendition of a computer mouse, the second, like a 3-D brushed aluminum, very modern symbol, just what the company needed.


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This idea came to me again, when another client who was interested in having me produce a radio advertisement, asked, “What if I don’t like it?” I replied, “I will do two, and you can choose the one you want.” I went away, wrote the copy for the two ads, hired a celebrity impersonator, rented time in a recording studio and produced two ads. When I demonstrated the ads to the client he told me he liked them both, and so he paid for both of them.