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Amazon: A look at the logo fronting the world's bigger retailer

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At only 18 years old, Amazon’s logo arguably has yet to reach iconic status. But its brand marque – the orange lower-case typeface underscored by a smile – is irrefutably ubiquitous. It’s stamped across your on-demand TV services and throughout your ad breaks, and on the posters outside your local Whole Foods. Even if you don’t visit its website habitually, a courier probably brings it into to your office every day via boxes emblazoned with that self-satisfied smirk.

It was at the turn of the millennium when Jeff Bezos’ branding posse came to visual identity shop Turner Duckworth looking for a revamp. The e-tailer, at that point still known as an online bookstore, had already evolved its first rudimentary logo into one with cleaner lines and less artwork, but in 2000 it had a clear brief to establish what it wanted the marque to say next.

“When the dotcom bubble burst, Amazon was transforming itself from purely a bookseller into an internet company that was going to sell everything, which was a radical move at the time,” recalls Bruce Duckworth, the eponymous cofounder of Turner Duckworth. “The logo needed to remind people of what had been done before. Jeff Bezos, in his own words, didn’t want to ‘spook the market’. But he also wanted to express two things: one was that the company was now selling everything on the internet, the other was that it was going to be the most consumerfriendly brand on the internet.”

The result of Turner Duckworth’s brainstorming was the icon we see today. The smile symbolizes the consumer friendliness of the service, but it also acts as an arrow connecting A to Z, communicating the vast array of items available for sale. Its lettering, however, remained in lower case thanks to the early internet’s inability to handle capital letters.

And as the likes of Google, Facebook and Instagram all refined or redesigned their own marques in their relatively short lifespans, Amazon has stuck with its 2000 design throughout the 21st century.

Duckworth believes the logo’s familiarity lies in Amazon’s simple decision to print it on its packaging. The agency found out recently that, since the design was completed, it has been printed 100bn times on boxes alone.

“Delivering the smile into people’s hands was an important part of the message that the business had changed,” he says. “Considering it was previously unbranded, to put the logo on and include this smile was quite an important thing – it signaled delivery of the brand promise. It shows the importance of design in establishing a brand.”

Unsurprisingly, the work is one of Duckworth’s design career highlights. But at the time, he recalls, designing the logo of an online bookseller did not make front page news.

“I remember it got a small section on page five of Design Week,” he says. “Amazon was an important business, but it wasn’t nearly where it is now. That scale and fame has made it one of the world’s most important logos.”

But as the company evolves ever further and expands into more and more spaces, is this simple emblem still fit for purpose?

Lee Fasciani, founder and creative director, Territory Projects

The logo is great. The best identities don’t always depict what a company does, leaving room to grow as a business. A logo should help define the spirit or essence of a brand, and everything beyond that, if done well, is a bonus. This arrow style and shape is now instantly recognizable and synonymous with the Amazon brand itself, allowing it to be utilized without the need of the wordmark.

However, as Amazon has expanded into many different business categories – including e-commerce, logistics, consumer electronics, cloud services, AI, physical retail and music services – the identity has struggled to stretch coherently across all of these different services. This lack of strategic cohesion in the identity has given way to some questionable sub-brands that use some or none of the original logo elements.

Anna Hamill, strategy director, Design Bridge

Does the logo live up to what Amazon is as a company? In many ways, yes. It’s simple and intuitive. It draws the semiotics of traditional bricks-and-mortar American retail into the world of online shopping to reassure and build trust. It’s recognizable in an app, flexes to a pack, and even stretches to bring Fresh – its latest food venture – into the family.

Is it as aesthetically beautiful and crafted as Apple? Is it as bold and timeless as Nike? I would argue these things don’t matter nearly as much as whether the experience the brand delivers on a daily basis is living up to people’s expectations. If one day Amazon needs to reinvent itself to remain relevant, then perhaps a revisit to the logo makes sense, but only alongside a full transformation of its business. The logo, therefore, would be a signal of dramatic change, and not the change itself.

Alex Normanton, creative director, MassiveMusic

I want to talk about audio identity. Amazon is essentially a mute brand that focuses almost purely on visual icons, often resulting in failure to offer a wholesome, engaging experience. Its main visual icon is the smile from A to Z, but if you strip this away, along with the rest of its visual identity, we’re left with no real audible icon. This needs to change. It’s clear that Amazon is either making the conscious decision to present itself as a mute brand, or more likely isn’t completely aware of the power of sound within a branding context. There’s no real sense of ‘This is an Amazon product’ when you turn on an Amazon device or sign in. There’s no sense of welcome. Sonic branding is all about feeling and emotion, and through this medium Amazon could go beyond UI and UX design to generate real and meaningful engagement with consumers.

Rory Sutherland, design director, Love

On seeing this logo during the first presentation, Jeff Bezos famously said: “Anyone who doesn’t like this logo doesn’t like puppies.”

The smile is a powerful tool of human communication. A smile translates across all languages and signals a positive interaction – pretty powerful when you work across hundreds of countries, sell a seemingly endless array of products and have no physical stores. The Amazon logo seems almost omnipresent these days, subliminal in its simplicity and minimal black, white and orange color scheme. However, in a world of increasing noise, technological advancement and the unstoppable rise of online shopping, the positive impact of the smile as a first connection with a consumer is just as powerful and important as ever. So while designers may lament font choice, color palette and the cheesy smile, most consumers would be hard pushed to find negative things to say about it.

This feature first appeared in The Drum's April issue, which talked about everything Amazon.

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Brand Positioning

WPP rebrands to reflect Read reinvention

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Holding company WPP has issued an all-encompassing rebrand to reflect the restructuring of the business which boasts more than 140,000 staff globally.

The rebrand was handled by Jim Prior, who leads the branding agency Superunion which was formed following a merger of five of WPP's top agencies this year, and Landor chief Jane Geraghty.

The new augmented look is designed to play in varying environments and colour palettes to show how the agency network can adapt to clients and industry challenges.

Prior said: “Our ambition was to present WPP with the same energy and creativity that we offer to our clients right across the company. There’s a lot of pride and ambition in WPP that is now united under a strong and dynamic brand identity.”

Geraghty added: “WPP has always been transformative – bringing together the best people and ideas to meet the needs of our clients. We now have an evolved brand and expression of purpose that better reflects who we are as a company, our collective capabilities, and what we offer.”

Accompanying the creative is a new website that looks to showcase the group’s digital expertise and offer up a hint of what it can provide for clients. It is describing itself as a "creative transformation" company.

On Tuesday 11 December, the company outlined its new strategy day at an investors event in London.

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Brand Positioning

Putting a price on reputation

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Consumers are willing to pay more for products that not only have the features they want but also are delivered by businesses with a good reputation, new research has found.

The study, by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), puts a price on reputation and explores the trade-off between a good reputation and extra product features.

It reveals that a company evaluated by consumers as better than its competitors in terms of corporate reputation commands around a 9% premium for its products, and an even higher premium when there are desirable extra features.

“The impact of corporate reputation on consumer choices is substantial compared to the competitive advantage offered by varying product features,” says study co-author, Associate Professor of Marketing Paul Burke, from UTS Business School.

“Marketing managers need to be concerned about corporate reputation not only because it builds loyalty and trust but also because product features appear more valuable, so consumers are willing to pay more,” he says.

The research, with co-authors Professor Grahame Dowling and Dr Edward Wei, published in the Journal of Marketing Management, focused on consumers in the market for televisions. The televisions were made by Sony, Panasonic or Toshiba.

Corporate reputation encompasses a range of dimensions including how people feel about the company, the quality and innovativeness of its products, its workplace environment and workforce, its vision and leadership, financial performance and social and environmental responsibility.

Conversely, brand damage occurs when companies become embroiled in scandals and crises such as financial corruption, leadership failure or environmental destruction.

In the study, participants were first asked to give an evaluation of the corporate reputation of each of the TV makers.

Separately, the were asked to choose between televisions based on fairly standard features such as warranty, price or size, and in addition by novel features such as backlight control or dynamic range control.

The research showed consumers were willing to pay extra for a product with important features and a good brand reputation, but less willing to pay a premium for products with novel features regardless of reputation.

For example, in the case of screen size, consumers were willing to pay $121 more for a television that was 55” over one that was 50”. This amount increased by a further 22% to $147 for a company that was one standard deviation higher on the corporate reputation measure.

“Corporate reputation is not something that can be readily controlled by marketing managers, but it is definitely something that should command their attention,” says Associate Professor Burke.

“Companies need to work hard to communicate that they are environmentally and socially responsible, support good causes, have a positive work environment, and excellent leadership and financial performance, and do their best to mitigate brand damage,” he says.

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Brand Positioning

State Street mulls siblings for Fearless Girl as it removes its brand from NYC statue

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State Street Global Advisors, the investment management firm behind the Cannes Lion-winning Fearless Girl, has hinted at plans to commission siblings for the original bronze statue for financial hubs outside New York City.

Lori Heinel, deputy global chief investment officer at the firm, told The Drum the company has “talked about whether to have replicas … of Fearless Girl” as it looks to expand its campaign, and is placing more women onto company boards globally.

“We've certainly been asked by many outside the US for their own Fearless Girl, and that's certainly a conversation we continue to have,” she said.

However, she added that State Street is focused on celebrating the original’s new, permanent location for now.

Today (10 December) State Street moved the bronze statue, originally at Bowling Green, to face the pedestrianized New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. The company worked with the City of New York and the NYSE to broker the statue's first permanent site; originally, it was only meant to be in situ for one week.

The move means the sculpture will no longer face the Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull – a stance the Italian artist vocally criticized – and will help alleviate traffic issues caused by heavy tourist footfall at the previous Lower Manhattan spot.

Ta-dah! pic.twitter.com/EvF53t6Bnb

— Katie Deighton (@DollyDeighton) December 10, 2018

Additionally, Kristen Visbal’s artwork is no longer accompanied by the plaque connecting her with State Street at the new location. A bronze sign previously declared: ‘Know the power of women in leadership/SHE makes a difference,’ followed by the State Street logo.

The copy was written by McCann New York creative Tali Gumbiner, who admitted she “never spent more time writing anything" in her life.

Heinel explained the decision not to move the plaque is symbolic of State Street gifting the conversation sparked by Fearless Girl to the wider world.

“The world moved the conversation [surrounding female leadership] away from just us a long time ago … it is way beyond State Street at this juncture,” she said.

“We wanted her to really symbolize the potential for all women everywhere and not be associated with just State Street. Clearly, we're very proud of the fact that we commissioned her and were the first to install her, but this is really about the girl now.”

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