Each of us is bombarded daily with commercial messages on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards, company signposts, flyers, junk mail, spam email, truck signage, internet pop-up ads, even our shirts, jackets, and hats contain advertising slogans and logos. With everything out there competing for our consideration, just how does a marketer grab and hold customer interest? How do you make the offering, the company, the image you wish to establish, stand out? To sell anything you first have to get their attention. Then convey your message quickly.
To break through all the marketing noise sellers are heading back to the proverbial drawing board. Each aspect of the marketing effort is under scrutiny. Every dollar invested to approach the market simply has to do more to generate interest and response. This includes the corporate emblem as well. That is why logos, which simply announce a corporate identity, are on a ride with the grim reaper.
Around the world people recognize the famous golden arches of McDonalds. And who can not identify the Nike swoosh? Would you know the three point star held in a perimeter ring as the Mercedes icon? These symbols instantly convey meaning. But not because they tell us anything about the companies they stand for. No, it is solely because hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent infusing meaning that these symbols, these logos, manage to represent anything at all. Can you manage this kind of investment for your identity?
The logos of Chevron (oil) and Domino’s (pizza) as examples, each employ a symbol that underlines their name, but no lesson about their ‘raison d’etre’ is imparted from the viewings.
None of the logos discussed above tell us anything about the business these companies are in, who they are, or what they do. These logos give no hint of the problems they solve for customers, or the benefits sought by their patrons. In fairness, these logos were fashioned long ago, well before the art of logo creation and design was elevated to today’s altitude of importance qq online.
Introducing the Meme
Logos are being replaced by the ‘Meme.’ Pronounced with a long “e” it rhymes with dream, and team. Its British creator defined it as “a basic unit of cultural transmission that passes from one mind to another and instantly communicates an entire idea.” Essentially it is a symbol that tells a story.
Here are a few examples: A zigzag lightning bolt, warns us off dangerous electric current; the silhouette of a stemmed martini glass, directs us to the party; the open faced palm of a police officer’s hand, tells us to stop and not to proceed beyond their position; the back of my hand with a raised central digit, well you know that one.
A meme does more than merely identify, it tells the public what it is you do. The Chiquita Banana as well as Planter’s Mr. Peanut tells us exactly the business they are in respectively.
Banks are in the money business. A bank might consider the dollar sign, or a sketch, a print, picture, or even an abstract image of currency. Money is their product. But wait, a gambling operation could also employ these ideas in their meme. Gamers want customers to think of cash as the ultimate benefit of doing business with them. So a bank may want to think a little harder to prevent any comparison of what they do, with gaming. The casino could easily employ dice as their meme. Such a symbol instantly tells their story, and is more indicative of the thrill their process delivers.
A good meme may reveal how you do it: A health club could use a set of barbells or dumbbells in its meme. A beautician or barber can employ the comb and scissors icon. After all this is how they do it.
A better meme may relate the benefits your customers realize. How about an image of a bulging bicep for that health club we mentioned above, or a presentation of a legendary six pack of abdominal muscles, aren’t these exactly what their members ultimately crave and strive for?
The best memes suggest a complete story to the viewer. Consider a management consultant who operates as The Business Doctor. Represented by a vertical physician’s eye chart, the lettering is in decreasing font as the eye is brought down. Instantly the entire process of diagnosis, prescription, and prognosis are conveyed. The business card is exactly the same, it is the meme. Stationery replicates a physician prescription pad. When displaying at business to business trade shows, he/she can add the scrub shirt to complete the presentation.
A personal trainer employs the picture of a person wearing a baseball cap with headset and microphone. This image instantly transfers the viewer to the sidelines where a coach would be sporting this exact arrangement as he provides guidance, support, drive, and sport specific strategy. This single picture tells a story.
Creating Your Meme
Start by asking yourself what are the benefits you offer customers/clients? Are any unique to you? What problem(s) do you solve for customers? What needs and wants do you satisfy? It is not about you. It is all about the customer: what they want, what they need, perhaps what they desire and strive for in their efforts. Try to continually shorten the word length of your answer. Then try to assimilate the answer to an image, a picture, an icon, a figure, a sketch, or some combination thereof, to arrive at the best single representation of your story or message. It’s what matters to them when they see it that counts. They cannot perceive you as better, until they at least see you as different!