how much should brands play with their digital assets?
In the past, brands would change their logos either to catch the eye for a new launch or to show their support for a social movement. McDonald’s has yet to reveal the reason for the change. According to experts, certain rules must be observed when brands engage in such an exercise. It may look promising in the short term and provide the brand with instant gratification i.e. increased engagement on social media. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to strong long-term returns.
It is true that names and logos are no longer “touch me” assets for brands. To stay in tune with the latest trends, brands sometimes end up tweaking them. However, what is unique about McDonald’s is that it’s not every day that you see a brand change its iconic asset because of the opinion of an influencer.
The brand may want to recognize the influencer work, and that’s fine. But comparing it to the work of an agency may not be fair. What an agency does for a brand is based on extensive research. The influencer is just another outsider, whose opinions can resonate with the brand or even go viral. But might not ensure credibility.
While McDonald’s credited and tagged Zugay on her social media, it was not possible to determine, at the time of filing this story, whether or not she had been paid for it.
McDonald’s decision brings us to some pertinent questions, such as as custodians of their logos, should brands be more careful when changing them? Does the creative work of influencers take precedence over what agencies create for brands? Can lesser-known brands afford such stunts?
afaq! contacted four industry experts, and here’s what they had to say.
Jay Morzaria, Group Creative Director, Schbang
From the school I belong to, a brand logo is a big plus. There are rules about where you can use it, how and in what form you should use it. I think brand teams have to be extremely careful even when an agency is rebranding, let alone a TikToker.
Without a doubt, priority should be given to the agency (rather than the work created by the influencers). An agency is like your wife and knows exactly who you are and how deep you are. He has also worked hand in hand with you over the years to watch you grow.
An influencer, on the other hand, is like a temporary attraction that brings a feeling of adrenaline rush and adventure. They seduce with their charm (tracking) and tend to make sweeping suggestions, which would shake things up. While such prospects may look promising in the short term, long term progress can only happen with partners who have always been a part of the journey with you.
Changing the logo is certainly a way to attract attention, but it also depends on how you do it. For example, one internet user reported similarities between a Good Day cookie and the Spotify logo. The brand used this as an opportunity and made the photo the user posted their official DP for a day or two. Then he went back to the original. It was all done in jest and the intention was well conveyed.
In the case of McDonald’s, the intention is missing and, to top it off, the arches are so iconic that you almost feel offended if someone tampers with them. Changing the logo suddenly grounds a TikTok influencer visualization, looks abrupt and incongruous, unless there’s something more to come. (I’ve heard of McDonald’s doing this because they wanted to introduce onion rings.)
As for small brands, I personally advise against such stunts. First, build brand value and trust among your audience, and probably think about doing such stunts later.
Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and Co-Founder, TheSmallBigIdea
We’re in a time where if you’re a brand that appeals to Gen Z, then being a maverick and a maverick is a brand personality you need to have. And doing things, like changing the logo for a day because a TikToker felt it, is one of those moves. This brings the brand into the Gen Z ‘things to publish today’ set of considerations, which in the digital world is strong word of mouth.
An influencer is a creator with a dedicated follower base. When a brand decides to collaborate or use something that a creator creates, the brand gains access and favor from a new set of audiences. It is not about a creative unit or a brand identity, rather the piece is pure public exposure and a gain on everyone’s fairness.
Plus, brand consistency isn’t limited to visual imagery. Personality is more than that. Like I said earlier, brands embrace a maverick, maverick, crazy, and geek personality, and they’re “consistent” with that.
Himanshu Arya, Founder and CEO, Grapes Digital
It’s great to see creativity recognized on new platforms. TikTok has become the essential platform for new trends. Zugay, which has gone viral for its stunning creations, also led McDonald’s to experiment. Changing logos for a temporary period is a smart move, as it helps brands grab attention quickly.
McDonald’s is known to change its logos from time to time, whether it’s trending or supporting a cause. It’s the most creative, economical and daring way to bring attention to your communication. And it works, because we’re talking about it now. Agencies have well-trained design teams and that’s why brands prefer them when it comes to creating a logo. In addition, the brand cannot play with the logo in every campaign, otherwise the audience will not be able to remember the identity of the brand.
This stuff is done occasionally. Not all brands can afford to do this, as it is a privilege reserved for big, established brands. If a big brand experiments with its brand identity, it becomes a trend, whereas small brands cannot afford such a risk. Playing with the brand logo just for fun is not a good idea. There is a saying that I think fits this situation perfectly, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
OR Radhakrishnan, creative consultant and screenwriter
Today, anyone with a few subscribers and a mobile phone with preloaded editing apps is a “content creator”. The problem is not that they spit out hundreds of “assets” in their sleep. But that all of these are considered “assets”. And thanks to digital media, all these “assets” are emerging. Whereas most of them should have been deleted the minute they were created.
Agencies are big and expensive machines for a reason. They have a proven track record in creating brands. Astonishing and spectacular work has been carried out on this same brand (McDonald’s) by very renowned advertising agencies. They spend weeks and months before even releasing a single title. Every word is meticulously crafted. Each font and color is carefully chosen.
What the brand just did was instant gratification. He saw an influencer already have “x” number of followers. So the change can generate instant followers or people visiting the brand’s page. It is not a long-standing solution and does not imply long-term gains for the brand.