PUBLISHED 2014 – MOTI Image Culture Paper 2014-2015
LOGO IS OVER! if you want it
Obama’s eyes glide from left to right over the screen and his incisive voice sounds like the refrain from a piece of music. His distinctive voice, together with his conviction and vulnerable words, can generate the feeling that it is the difference between people that empowers society. Barack Obama has become the dynamic logo of America; his sharply demarcated image and his recognisable style of speaking and his power of conviction were able to win over the necessary voters for two election victories. His identity is a successful product, balancing on the cusp of vision and media awareness. Obama’s campaign leaders looked closely at the marketing strategies developed for consumer products, but conversely, the consumer market has also looked closely at Obama’s formula for success, where the proper balance between sentiment, vision and aesthetics can lead to enormous benefits.
It is no longer the logo that assumes a central place in the way people today perceive a brand, but the philosophy, the social connection and the total visual image of that brand. The logo as design object emerged at the start of the 20th century and developed into a powerful and clear identity, allowing multinationals to take the spotlight with a single (word) image. Later, in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, the brand logos took centre stage in copious expensive advertising campaigns with striking TV spots. The first global campaigns were developed, whereby the images were spread for the first time in the international media. The society of repetition became fact and the big international marketing philosophy came to the fore. The growing prosperity was shown as something glamorous and seductive and the average citizen was gradually transformed into an eager, hungry consumer. The advertising world enjoyed its heyday and the logo was worshipped! Andy Warhol immediately reflected on these developments; he illustrated not only retail products such as Campbell’s soup, but also showed world leaders as logos.
The logo has now lost its unique status. An internet search for ‘design your own logo’ will give you a list of free software with which you can conjure up your own logo in just a few minutes. Recognisable graphic symbols varying from world globes in all shapes and sizes to word images in every style are generated automatically. Corporate identity is no longer the primary vehicle for illustrating the identity, for the idea of identity has, in recent years, developed into a product itself. And it is the marketing people who currently develop concepts for complete earning models and the products and services necessary for them follow all by themselves. For example, people can use crowd-funding campaigns to persuade people to contribute towards developing a new product. People become involved in the development process and identify themselves with the product. This social intervention eliminates the distance between the buyer or user and the product.
The world changes before our very eyes and sometimes our lives seem like one big advertising campaign. We figure and participate in the media. Something we used to call surreptitious advertising – which was forbidden by law – has now developed under the name ‘creative industry’; a popular political target in the context of progress. The creative industry that aims to connect culture and economy, is central in the network society where new products and services emerge from new formulae, but also information, technology and design. The media is so widely embedded in our lives that it is simply impracticable to divide the information we produce and distribute daily between advertising messages and content without a commercial aim. Facebook places sponsored messages as unobtrusively as possible and users themselves no longer make the distinction and have, as it were, become the advertisers themselves. The commercialisation of society intertwined with social developments.
The trademark is developing in the 21st century into an expansive concept that represents the corporate identity of both large multinationals and small individuals through (visual) storytelling. IKEA, for example, furnished the Paris metro stations with the familiar Klippan sofas, without placing the logo in the spotlight. The mobile cashiers of the Apple Stores exude the vision of a lifestyle launch café instead of a shop where you can buy a computer. Mark Zuckerberg began Facebook when he was a student, and it has since grown into the largest social-media network in the world. Individual, creative businesspeople take particular advantage of this proliferation of new ideas for marketing strategy.
And of course advertising is still around, but even more intrusive than ever and increasingly closer. Advertising manifests itself in your environment and your body without you being aware of it and you activate it yourself by, for example, working with Internet. The computer system (algorithms) analyse your behaviour; the food you eat via your bonus card, the sort of books you read via Bol.com, the holidays you view online at Arke.nl, and the clothing you like at Zalando.nl. And these are but a few examples of all the personal preferences that you are known to possess. You are sometimes unaware of whether you are receiving information or some piece of advertising you generated yourself. Mass culture and algorithms now switch equally between the identity of a person and a can of Coca Cola. People often manifest themselves in the media as a product and profile themselves by identifying with the information they allow into their digital habitat. And the logo? That’s you!