Remember the Gap logo redesign fiasco from a few weeks ago? All the sturm und drang over switching from white letters on a blue block to black letters with a small blue square? The massive internet campaign to change it back? I did not mind the redesign–the previous logo looks so 1994, and the new design, though it shamelessly cashes in on the current obsession with Helvetica, at least has a modern feel–but I also don’t give a rat’s ass about the Gap and haven’t shopped there since I was 19. But the people spoke, and the Gap cowered. What a beautiful mix of capitalism and democracy, right? This blogger contends it was a positive development for the Gap; I am saddened that people make emotional connections to inanimate objects. And regardless, sometimes people don’t know what’s best for them, even in the free market–there’s no way Nintendo could sell its new product with such a stupid name, right?
You would think any retailer, particularly another clothier with a loyal (and hipstery, image-conscious, and cynical) fanbase, would avoid the same PR nightmare. But no. Now Urban Outfitters has entered the fray with a look straight out of 1996 WordArt. It is simply hideous. Try going to the website (wait–should I be directing people to their internet homebase? Am I feeding the fire here?). Whatever–I can’t even handle the atrocity of the design. As if the sweaters weren’t ugly enough. Still awaiting the public outrage on this one. Surely it’s some sort of PR ploy. Irony fever–catch it!
The Gap isn’t the only public entity to feel the wrath of brand-conscious consumers. Tropicana faced a massive backlash after unveiling it’s own Helvetica-ish remodel. Note again the reference to an “emotional bond.” An emotional bond to orange juice? Do we really feel this? Do YOU feel this? This kind of shit makes me wish I lived in the 19th century, where the only “brand” of orange juice was the color of the sack you grabbed the oranges from. “You’re not using burlap anymore? BOYCOTT!”
I wonder how the preteen set will react to the new MySpace brand. Probably with great enthusiasm, because Tom has introduced that most insidious form of branding–the self-made logo. That’s right, kids–you now have ownership of the media and products that control you! Quid pro quo, right? It’s the iPod style of self-expression–you demonstrate your individuality every time you strut down the street sporting those white earbud cords snaking out of your jacket pocket. This seems like an appropriate place to discuss emotional connection to a brand, because teenagers exude raw emotion only, at the expense of rationality or critical thinking. But adults getting upset about their orange juice box?
Everything is a brand these days. Tennis star Maria Sharapova has acknowledged her efforts to make herself a “global brand.” Does that mean her logo redesign would be a haircut? Every single thing Lady Gaga has ever done is a calculated attempt to appeal at a certain demographic, because she is a product, fully free of true artistic inspiration. Movies these days are products, not forms of creative expression, and sometimes the first hint of the film reeks of branding. (Exhibit A. Such a shameless attempt at establishing a franchise. Still awaiting that second “Series of Unfortunate Events” movie. Series–are you sure?) The content of the product barely matters anymore. Does it have a snazzy, easily recognized logo? Does the commercial make irrelevant, inconsequential claims about the product? (“Lucky Strike–it’s toasted!”) And don’t even get me started on beer commercials.
I can’t even begin to understand or dissect the reasons as to why people respond to brands and logos the way they do. Who know how many books have been written on the subject. The whole thing makes me sad though. People spend their lives determining what color will make people buy something. Manipulating people’s subconscious instincts to make money–how can that be fulfilling? Do they end their day feeling they’ve contributed to society?
I don’t know where we go from here. Branding, marketing, advertising, it’s all only going to seep into every aspect of our lives even further as technology connects us and the world continues to shrink. Food and clothes are essential to life, but we’re all still subject to the manipulation of the manufacturer and the massive marketing machines they generate. I guess I’ll, I dunno, start growing my own oranges and make my own damn juice.