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July 11, 2005

Your Logo here

Between human heads and flowers, figuring out just where to imprint your company’s logo can be difficult. We highlight several companies’ unorthodox branding moves and why they paid off.

When Glen Agritelley promoted the opening of his bar two years ago, he knew just where to put his logo: front and center of women’s underwear. Thongs, actually. “Sixty percent of the people who come into our wine bar are ladies,” says Agritelley, the owner of Mercy Wine Bar, an upscale bar and restaurant in Addison, a Northern suburb of Dallas. “Given that demographic, we thought it would be really cute to give out thongs.”

Apparently so do his clientele. Women visiting the bar often ask if they will receive a thong, though Agritelley says they are promotional items given sparingly to maintain a certain level of exclusivity. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t sparked their share of publicity for the establishment that pulls in $2 million a year in business. Besides community chatter, the stunt created awareness all the way to Las Vegas, where, at Mandalay Bay, a guest spotted Agritelley wearing a Mercy Wine Bar hat and told him his girlfriend had received a thong from the bar a week earlier.

Between product placement in movies and corporate signage bombarding consumers at every turn, marketers find it ever more difficult to locate new and unique products and places for their logos.

“People are inundated with 3,000 marketing messages a day,” says Erik Hauser, creative director and founder of San Francisco-based Swivel Media, a company that specializes in experiential and guerilla marketing. In that kind of heavily saturated market, getting your logo seen through unorthodox means can be the most effective strategy. But, Hauser cautions, it’s not as simple as slapping your company’s symbol on an undergarment and calling it a day. “Make sure the logo placement has meaning and relevance to the brand.”

Below is a look at four companies who know exactly where to place their logo and drive brand recognition.

Don’t Leave a Mark
“A logo on a product can’t hurt if it’s appropriate to the overall brand image,” says Marian Calabro, president of CorporateHistory.net LLC, a firm that chronicles company histories and their marketing efforts, logo placement among them.

In logo placement, where your company’s symbol ends up is of crucial importance. IBM Corporation learned that lesson the hard way. In 2001, the computer hardware manufacturer stenciled ads all over the sidewalks in Haight Ashbury, a progressive, hip neighborhood in San Francisco. Rather than clever marketing, however, the stencils, which were difficult, if not impossible, to remove, were seen more as graffiti than marketing brilliance.

In San Francisco, Boston, New York and Chicago, where the company also plastered its logo on the street, cities paid tens of thousands of dollars to clean up the paint. IBM apologized to the cities and agreed to reimburse them hundreds of thousands of dollars – some $120,000 to San Francisco alone – to clean up the unwelcome messages. The lesson? Make sure your guerilla move will be seen as innovative, not invasive. “Haight Ashbury, that’s the biggest anti-corporate place in America, and you go spraying your logo there? Come on,” says Hauser, incredulous about IBM’s lack of sensitivity to their audience.

Besides using materials that can be easily cleaned up, experts insist that the key to effective logo placement is to make sure it ends up in the most appropriate spot or on the a product related to the company’s core business.

Agritelley’s panty promotion, which costs him $200 a year for 500 thongs, would be in poor taste for most firms, but it dovetailed well with his type of business and his clientele.

Experts say that’s the key to branding success. The other is avoiding intrusive behavior like IBM’s. When Swivel Media was hired to create brand awareness for online coupon company boodle.com, they knew they would need a clever product on which to place the Web site’s logo. It turned out to be quarters – 8,000 of them in Cincinnati and Minneapolis.

Last August, Swivel placed removable stickers on $2,000 worth of quarters in each city then placed the quarters in key spots like vending machine and public phone change-return trays. In addition to the stickers, with messages of, “go to boodle.com and save money,” Swivel also painted perforated coupon outlines and giant scissors on streets throughout the cities. The difference: The paint they used was a tempura easily washed away. Awareness of the campaign at times sparked “scavenger hunts” among some city residents, Hauser says, who found it intriguing to search for the quarters.

More to the point, the relevance to boodle.com is obvious: Stickers were placed on objects directly tied to the web site’s purpose, helping consumers save money.

In other campaigns, Swivel has created logoed bookmarks that it inserted into magazines likely to be bought by a company’s target market in local bookstores. On other occasions, it has printed corporate logos on 8.5- x 11-inch sheets of paper and placed them in printers at major office supply stores to target business shoppers.

The key in all of these promotions, Hauser says, was their subtlety. “Don’t be too intrusive,” he says. “No one wants to be bombarded on street corners.”

Find the Right Spot
Since last year, Speaking Roses has embossed tiny gold logos on lush, red roses for dozens of companies looking for a unique branding opportunity. A product that ubiquitous in people’s lives is ideal for many brands, say company representatives Mark Hidden and Ted Phillips. The company, they say, has simply tapped the emotional connection people have with roses and transferred that connection to a brand’s identity. “It generates a level of wonderment,” Hidden says, “and creates a long-term memory” that will stick with recipients. The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, for example, has used the roses to hand out to customers coming off of the Italian-themed property’s gondola rides.

And, for places like hotels, roses may be an appropriate gift, since guests can keep them alive in a vase in their room. But while the printing of a gold logo on something as delicate as a rose petal is an impressive feat of technology, experts caution that companies should make sure the product on which they place their logo dovetails with their business. Too many companies make the mistake of throwing their logo on random products within the marketplace under the notion of, “any placement is good placement,” says Bob Phibbs, a marketing expert in Los Angeles known as the Retail Doctor. That can be a mistake. “The goal of marketing is to take a pistol and shoot at a target,” says Phibbs, “not shoot a shotgun into the air and hope something sticks.” The logo on a rose makes sense for a chauffer service, he says, but not for a hardware store. “Consumers are not going to trust logos they don’t know in odd places.”

For some companies, the right logo placement opportunity just doesn’t exist. For Gold Eagle Company, a Chicago-based manufacturer of engine oils and other fluids, that was the case. Finding a place to put the company’s STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer product, was difficult. That is, until the company decided to create its own national marketing opportunity. Now Gold Eagle sponsors an annual event, the STA-BIL National Lawn Mower Racing Series, in which individuals nationwide race their lawn mowers in local, regional and national competitions. Started 14 years ago, the association today has 22 chapters, 500 members and a yearly series of races that has attracted attention in USA Today, Playboy and ESPN2. All entrants, whose mowers chug along from 6 to 60 miles per hour, are required to display the STA-BIL logo somewhere on their mowers.

“The PR costs are nothing,” says Manny Grijalva, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Gold Eagle. Rather, the racing series actually generates money for the company from race participants, who pay $35 to the National Lawn Mower’s Racing Association, an organization created by Gold Eagle, who often partners racing events with local fairs and festivals to increase logo visibility. On a good day, as many as 2,000 spectators watch a race, Grijalva says.

That’s an effective logo placement, Hauser says, because it puts the logo on exactly the product that the logo is associated with, but does so in a clever and engaging manner. “It raises awareness in their marketplace” among specific users who might very well buy STA-BIL to keep their mowers’ engines running smoothly, “in a fun and innovative way,” Hauser says.

Be Unique, but Smart
Like any good marketer, Christopher Faulkner knows the secret to success is originality. So when the CEO of C I Host, a Web hosting company in Dallas, wanted to promote his firm, he slapped his logo on the one spot no one else had: Evander Holyfield’s boxing trunks in the heavyweight championship of the world in November 1999. The fight was a major loss for Holyfield, but hardly a marketing washout for C I Host, which benefited from millions of people watching the event, and consequently his company’s logo.

Following that stunt would be difficult, but Faulkner managed to do it. Two years later, he was inspired to tattoo his company’s logo on a willing participant’s forehead – a tough marketing medium for sure.

But in 2001, while scrolling through pages on eBay, Faulkner found Jim Nelson auctioning his head as a “human billboard.” For $7,000, Nelson would be a company’s walking, talking billboard for five years. Faulkner jumped at the idea and hired Nelson to sport a 5- x 5-inch C I Host logo on the back of his head. As part of his contract, Nelson, who needed seed money to start his own business, a collectibles store for medieval swords and knives, must pitch C I Host to any person who inquires about his tattoo.

“Tattooing your logo on someone’s head will get you press, but you risk the integrity of your brand” when it’s a stunt simply for the sake of being outrageous, Hauser cautions, though companies selling products for teens and other trendy audiences can benefit from such outlandish moves. “I wouldn’t want to see Oracle advertising on someone’s forehead.”

But Faulkner insists that two years later the unorthodox move has paid off. Nelson, who is required under the deal to travel at least four times a year, once internationally, has talked up C I Host so frequently to curious passersby that his tattoo has generated stories in major media outlets worldwide as well as 800 new clients worth $20,000.

In the end, experts say, the key is to make sure the placement of your logo will have a strong, but positive impact with consumers – and one that will resonate with your company’s business objectives or corporate persona. “The best ideas are radically simple,” Hauser says. The key, he notes, is to make the stunt relevant to a company’s brand. “The more meaning and relevance, the better the recall.”

Betsy Cummings is a freelance writer based in New York.

Sometimes making an impact among customers means placing your company’s logo in an unusual place. It can be effective if done right.

Human Heads
When Christopher Faulkner wanted to make an impact, he decided the back of a man’s head was the best place to do it. The stunt paid off, but experts warn that entertainment for entertainment’s sake can backfire. Even pregnant women have been reported to have logos tattooed on their bellies, but to many consumers that kind of stunt is crossing the line of good taste. Make sure your tattooed logo, best reserved for youth marketed products, won’t hurt your brand’s image overall.

When Countrywide Home Loans wanted to get employees excited about its sales incentive program, it decided to appeal to their competitive nature. Drawing on the success of the Survivor TV show, it sent the employees each a survival kit – logoed lip balm, sunscreen, compass and flashlight all packed in a hollowed-out coconut that zipped closed.

American Currency
Last August Boodle.com sparked local, unofficial scavenger hunts after it put stickers with its logo on 8,000 quarters and strategically placed them in vending machines, phones and other places around cities. Found money is rarely a bad marketing move, and was particularly effective for a Web site that helps people save their quarters, so to speak.

Baby’s Bottom
OK, this promotional consultant’s logo wasn’t literally put on a baby’s bottom; rather, it was affixed to a diaper using a printed label. Given to attendees as they entered the New York Incentive show and also at the promotional consultant’s booth, the diapers asked, “Isn’t it time for a change?” Apparently, many people thought so, with the promotion generating a 531% increase in leads over the previous year.

Boxer’s Trunks
When Evander Holyfield got beaten by Lennox Lewis in the 1999 heavyweight championship, he went down with the logo of C I Host imprinted on the back of his boxing shorts. The bout was a disaster for Holyfield, but a marketing coup for the Web hosting company.

Some companies use paddleball or beach towels to get beach-goers’ attention. But PR firm Z Communications wanted to make a different kind of statement. It sent several thousand of its best prospects a pair of logoed flip-flops with the company’s Web address carved into the bottom. So, whenever recipients wore them to the beach, they left impressions of the company’s Web address everywhere they walked.

It seems impossible to imprint your logo on a single rose petal, but Speaking Roses International Inc., has figured out a way to do it. And companies by the dozens are lining up to hand out the unique logo placement to clients.

Mr. Potato Head
The Detroit Pistons wanted to give fans a product to commemorate its “Hardwood Classics” night, which is an homage to earlier days in the franchise’s history. For this particular game, the team would be wearing retro jerseys from the late ’70s-early ’80s era, so it wanted an item that would reflect that time. What it chose was a replica Mr. Potato Head, wearing its own retro jersey with the Pistons’ old logo on the back. Dubbing it the “Pistons Sports Spud,” the team gave the item to the first 5,000 kids who attended the tribute game.

Ladies’ Underwear
Plenty of restaurants sell T-shirts with the logos, but not so many imprint their logos on ladies thong underwear. Dallas establishment Mercy Wine Bar did just that and now hands out the black cotton panties to women who visit the bar.

Need a Logo? Visit http://www.logomagic.com or call 1-800-373-LOGO

Posted by farfromboring at July 11, 2005 03:08 PM