The Worthlessness of Logos

Pretty harsh, right?

Well, not really.

Logos, when a business is beginning, and it’s new and exciting and filled with “What is that?” have some merit. It’s the logos that we are most familiar with that we tend to notice the least.

Have I got a story about that? Of course I do.

Let’s start with one of my most favorite brands.

Keep in mind, I’m not here to bash any brand or speak negatively about them in any way. My goal is to make my brands engaging. To matter. And to do that, they have to be noticed.


Logos are like wallpaper (a term we use in the advertising industry that carries that sting of not being noticed. at. all. i.e., overlooked). As are most ads at the top and to the right on a webpage. We know ads are going to be there so we subconsciously avoid even looking at those sections.

This is hard to tell a client who, rightfully so, loves their logo and believes if they just plaster it up everywhere, and are unavoidable, sales will follow. And again, this does work with some brands. However, it isn’t always the case. And, this is hugely dependent upon your product category.

Let’s get back to the story.

When I began working on McDonald’s, I really started to notice that the advertising I ran that was logo inclusion only, did not see the ROI on which I was laser-focused for the backend of the campaign analysis. That’s when it solidified to me that logos are wallpaper.

I brought this to my McDonald’s Owner/Operator’s attention at our next review meeting, but they were… reluctant to put their faith in my hypothesis.

And then a POV came into our lives that would make it clear as day: logos are worthless.

I was given a media package to evaluate from the Charlotte Bobcats with, at first, very little context. All I heard about, at every meeting, was a guy called Mike. His name was like a bright cherry-red 24-hour lipstick. Always on their lips and unavoidable to miss. Finally, I had to ask. “Who’s Mike?”

Aaaah, that Mike. A “Mike” so famous that I didn’t need to show you anymore than his face. OK, I get it. I grew up with Mike (though I kept to his very formal Christian name of Michael Jordan when I referenced him). I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I did have the Air Jordan t-shirts, do love Looney Toons, and don’t live under a rock.

Here’s a little background. In 2010, Michael Jordan (or “Mike” as my owner/operators called him – clearly so endeared to him that they knew him by his childhood nickname) bought the Charlotte Bobcats (who returned the team to their original name, the Hornets, a year later) and it wasn’t long before he put together an enormous sponsorship package that he sent out to the major players in the market (and the world). It was no surprise that McDonald’s got a seat at the table (even with a somewhat sketchy past with the brand as a whole, but that’s a blog for another time).

I was given the package deal and asked to evaluate it and provide a POV (Point Of View). I can’t tell you how much the package cost, but consider the person and consider the client. That should give you a mind-boggling guesstimate.

The package was 100% logo inclusion.

I reviewed it and gave it a hard “no”. I wrote up a beautiful POV that was filled with lots of strong reasoning as to how I came to my decision and why the package did not value out. Here are a few:

1. Their logo would be included with 4 others

2. Their logo would be on stadium signage that was often overlooked (when was the last time you went to a game and stopped to stare at a banner hanging from a ceiling 50 feet in the air)?

3. There were too many logos

4. The logos were wallpaper

5. The logos were often very small. On t-shirts they were about the size of a postage stamp

6. The logos were black and white. C’mon. That’s… wallpaper on top of wallpaper!

7. It did not engage with the brand. To me, that’s Engagement Marketing 101. How in the world was someone supposed to conjure up feelings for the black and white Golden Arches with four other logos that were quite literally on top of one another?

Here was my main point, and what I still advocate and believe to this day.

To make a true connection, to evoke emotion, you have to “speak” to your customer in the way that they interact with the brand. When you see the Golden Arches you don’t feel anything. You overlook it. I told them, “Connect with your customer through food. That’s who you are. That’s what you do. That’s your relationship. Use food and beverage as the imagery, not the Golden Arches.”

Here’s an example:

I personally hate mushrooms. But if you showed me a McDonald’s Mushroom & Swiss Burger my mind will immediately say, “I hate mushrooms… but their fries are the bomb” (which, incidentally, are the exact words I would have said in 2010). Now you have me in a food mindset. Now I’m practically salivating, tasting those hot, salty, delicious fries and looking for my car keys.

I gave it a no-go. They disagreed.

Because Mike even promised that he “might” make it to one of their weekly board meetings.

I told them, as I do all my clients, “you pay me for my opinion that comes from years of knowledge and expertise. But at the end of the day, it’s your money. If you want to participate in this (outrageous) package, I will set it up and execute it for you. But you will also have in writing my opinion that it is over-priced and you will never receive the equity and ROI that I know is so important to you.”

They participated and those glorious black and white Golden Arches dominated the stadium. Along with four other logos.

At our next meeting they said, “Rebecca, you were finally wrong!!” I laughed and said, “Oh, I am 100% human and I am wrong quite often.” They then proceeded to tell me that they saw the Arches EVERYWHERE. “You couldn’t avoid it! It was on t-shirts and banners and in-stadium signage. Literally everywhere we looked we saw the Golden Arches!!”

I sat patiently and listened.

When the gushing stopped I asked one question, it was more like a statement, that not only changed the tone in the room, but also changed forever our media planning moving forward.

“Name one of the other four.”

They sat there baffled. “It doesn’t matter who the other four were, we’re talking about McDonald’s here!”

I said, “I get that. I have no doubt you saw your logo everywhere. It was unavoidable. Kinda the way you only see pregnant women when you’re thinking of starting a family, or you only see Land Rovers if that’s your dream car and you finally saved up enough to buy it. It’s personal to you. You’re looking for it. But your customers aren’t.”

There was a pause. Dramatic even. But then I saw it. I saw them get it. What I had been trying to explain to them for months, they got with one statement. They understood that a logo isn’t going to have the emotional connection with their customers that it has for them. They cherish their logo and I get it. I am in love and infatuated with mine as well. But their logo has been around forever and, when someone sees their logo, it doesn’t make their mouths water. Like their fries. Or their Quarter Pounder. Or their Apple Pies. They don’t get thirsty looking at their logo, but they do when they see a picture of the sweat dripping down the sides of an ice cold $1 Sweet Tea.

From that day on, we never used just the logo. It was always accompanied with the product. And not just because of the breakthrough that they had at the meeting after the big game (though that was the catalyst), but because they saw that beautiful sales line steadily rising quarter after quarter once they focused on food.

That is why Engagement Marketing is my passion. Making that connection matter. Creating a relationship – not just showing them an ad, checking the box, and calling it a day.

Fantastic. Now I want fries.

And now so do you.

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