Punctuation in logos — which symbol, and where?

The rules on punctuation in written sentences are pretty clear (though there are personal preferences on placement of commas and such). But when it comes to logos, those symbols and words meant to convey a brand image, the rules sail right out the window.

I was not aware of AOL’s change to “Aol.” until I read this article. I’d love to have been in the room when that momentous decision was made. Did they argue passionately over the capital “A” versus a lower-case one? Were there conference room fistfights over adding the period? Is this logo change a Band-Aid to repair their wounded brand image? If so, I don’t think it’s big enough. Here’s a YouTube video about it:

When there’s a period at the end of a logo, it seems to imply THIS product is the only one that matters. The only one you need. If that’s the idea, AOL should be jailed for felonious period abuse. AOL is the one ISP you definitely do not need. Having had infuriating set-tos with various “customer service” people at AOL for years (The Early Years), I’d be giddy with joy if the period meant the end of AOL, or aol. Which, if I wanted to be snarky, I’d say should be “Ahol.” But no. I’m moving on.

When you insert any punctuation into a logo, you’re taking a risk that either (a) it will look dumb; or (b) will be taken ironically. For instance, an exclamation point, that poor, overworked symbol meant to convey excitement, can either be fun, sad, or baffling, depending on the company. Just imagine the logo, “M!crosoft.”

Choosing a logo is a serious matter, because if it’s emblazoned on your stationery, business cards, store sign, advertising and everything else, it’s going to cost a fortune to change. You’ll notice that when established companies update their logos, they only futz with it a little. They’ll change the hue slightly, add a swash or take it away, something like that. Nothing that might shock or confuse loyal customers.


People like, or at least get used to, the logo of a company they patronize. Changing it radically could have the effect of snatching away the sweet little brown teddy bear your child clings to at bedtime and substituting a snarling grizzly bear plush critter. “Yaaaagh! Where’s my teddy?!” (Note proper use of exclamation point.)

I must confess that the reason I don’t have a logo is that I can’t figure out what it might be. When I was identifying myself with my company, LizardPro Creative, Inc., it was pretty easy to design a logo for my stationery and biz cards. Oh, I changed the style of the lizard about seven times, but there was no parakeet or roach or any other animal. But “Liz Craig, Writer?” I got some business cards that have a pen and paper, but even that isn’t right, because I’ve been using a computer for so long, I can hardly write legibly anymore. But enough about me.

If you want a good designer to create a strong, timeless logo, you can expect to pay more than those “Your logo for $50!!!” (Note incorrect use of exclamation points.) guys who advertise in Google AdWords. Sure, even I could give you some kind of a logo for $50, but what would it look like? If you don’t care, there’s even a website where you can glom one of their prefab logos for cheap and stick it on your company name. If your company is called Bland & Meaningless, Inc., I suppose one of those would do.

Looking at an exquisitely simple logo, you might think, “Why, my teenaged kid could have done that in three seconds.” Well, so did the designer. But that was after days and weeks of gathering information, discussing it with the client, trying different colors, styles and layouts. So the cost of a great logo is not all for that final splat on paper. It’s for the think time, and the experience, sensitivity, taste, judgment and skill of the designer.

Okay, someone’s going to bring up the Nike “swoosh.” Folklore has it that a Portland art student quickly whipped out the swash in a moment of inspiration. And “Just do it” was an offhand comment the founder heard. That’s swell. But the brilliant part is that someone recognized the swash as a timeless symbol, and “Just do it” as an elegantly simple statement that expressed the heart and soul of Nike. (See true history of the “swoosh.”) That hardly ever happens. More times than not, a client will want the designer to crank out dozens or hundreds of “ideas” to choose from, when the best one by far obviously was in the first six presented. The same applies to taglines, by the way. Hence, the high cost of logos (and taglines). Design and writing hours cost money.

So what do you think of the punctuation in and style of some of the logos in the article I linked above? Send your thoughts, and suggest a logo or two you really like or hate.

Personal Branding: Make Meaning, Not Money

Here’s another one of Guy Kawasaki’s five tips for personal branding success (again quoting from that BNET blog post I linked to in my last post):

Make Meaning, Not Money. If you’re into personal branding with the goal of making money, stop now. You will attract the wrong kind of people into your life. Instead, start with the goal of making meaning. What better way to align all your actions with your long-term goals. What kind of meaning will you make? Kawasaki suggests two ideas for inspiration: 1) right a wrong, or 2) prevent the end of something good. What will you do to make the world a better place?

“Life is empty and meaningless, and it doesn’t mean anything that life is empty and meaningless.”

Guy Kawasaki didn’t say that. The leader of my Forum weekend did. That’s the first cosmic two-by-four that hit me in the head at The Forum, an introduction to the Landmark Education curriculum. It sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it? But all it’s really saying is that life has no inherent meaning — it’s a fresh, new canvas you can paint any way you want. Whatever the meaning in your life is, you choose it. You create it. You live it.

Early in my career, my life was all about getting together a great portfolio and winning creative awards so I could get more money at the next agency where I worked. These days, of course, I still need money, but winning awards is no longer what gives my life meaning. What does, though, is being in integrity with my own values and helping people create their own successes.

There’s more to meaning than what you do for a living. There’s the spiritual thrill that comes from seeing a great work of art or hearing a Mozart concerto played by splendid musicians. The warm feeling that bubbles up when you’re giggling with a toddler. The expansive feeling when you’re admiring the beauty of mountains or the ocean. The satisfaction you feel savoring a superbly prepared meal. Or the tender love you feel for your parent, your child, your mate, or your best friend. All of this has meaning on a personal scale.

On a broader scale, working for a cause in which you believe can imbue your life with tremendous meaning and the feeling that you’re making the world a better place. You might teach someone to read, coach a kids’ softball team, join an organization that champions the rights of the disabled, work for candidates whose views you share, join the choir at church, or serve on the City Council.

To me, the greatest exemplar of meaning-making is Mohandas Gandhi. His long-term goal was “to become a complete zero.” That meant reducing his ego desires to zero and acting as a purely selfless human being. He held no elected office and sought no fame, yet world leaders sought his counsel, and he commanded tremendous power — through nonviolent civil disobedience — to lead the Indian people in a symbolically important strike against the salt tax imposed by Great Britain. See the 1982 movie, if you haven’t before. Wow. Did he ever give his life — and the lives of his countrymen — meaning! Gandhi died in 1948, having lived to see India achieve independence the previous year.

Gandhi righted a wrong — the exploitation of the Indian people by Great Britain — and made the world a better place by peaceful means. Probably none of us will become the meaning-maker Gandhi was, but all of us, in our own ways, create meaning in our lives.

What gives your life meaning? I’d love to hear from you.

Personal branding: Make a mantra

If there’s anyone in the world who knows a thing or two about personal branding, it’s Guy Kawasaki. He’s written a book called “The Art of the Start,” in which he suggests five principles of successful personal branding.

One of them, quoted in a BNET blog post, particularly intrigued me:

Make a Mantra. In three words or less, what are you all about? Kawasaki believes that mission statements are useless. He says, make a mantra instead. FedEx stands for “peace of mind.” What do you stand for, in the simplest terms?

At networking events, people are asked to give their “elevator speeches” or 30-second commercials. Most people describe what they do for a living. But a mantra is not about what you DO; it’s about what you’re ABOUT.

Okay, what you do is sell life insurance. But maybe what you’re about is “helping families be financially secure.” Or maybe your mantra is about an even higher level of consciousness, like, “to embody the peace I wish to see in the world.” That mantra, if it’s truly what you’re about, will infuse your every action and thought with an intention to create peace. The more meaningful your mantra is to you, the more you will internalize and reflect it.

When I was working in community theater, which I loved, my mantra was “creating community.” The community theater experience brought together everyday people, some with acting training, some without, some with family and social connections, some without, to put on a show. And as they worked together, they made fast friends. And they found that their contribution, as small or large as it might be, was valued. By working together, they could complete a puzzle with real meaning. That truly inspired me.

Now, what is my mantra? Well, right now, it’s “creating a lovely home” — for someone else, a potential buyer. I’ll keep mulling over my essential mantra during the process.

Can you get your life’s mission down to a mantra of three or fewer words? Try it. You’ll deepen your understanding of yourself and strengthen your presence in the world.

Building a Personal Brand?

After writing on consumer packaged goods accounts at ad agencies for years, I think I understand the concept of “brand” pretty well. It’s more than a logo, it’s the promise a product stands for. What I have a harder time getting is how branding extends to your own person.

Marketers used to adopt spokespeople, animals or things to represent the fine qualities of their canned goods, frozen food, air conditioning units or what-have-you. Their product brand’s virtues. The Unique Selling Propositions.

• In consumer packaged goods, you had Mr. Clean, that handsome brute in white, representing the ultimate cleanliness you could achieve by using the product.

• Ajax laundry detergent was “stronger than dirt,” championed by a knight on a white horse as a jingle drilled the key phrase into our heads.

• The Jolly Green Giant was friendly, green and out standing in his field (sorry for the pun). He represented garden-fresh vegetables in cans or frozen. Ho ho ho!

• Poppin’ Fresh was a literal dough boy representing dough that popped out of a can when you rapped it on the edge of the counter. The name is ingenious — the unique selling proposition in two words — and the spokesdough unforgettable. But for me, the little guy was too cutesy, especially when he giggled. I wanted that finger that poked him in the tum-tum to poke all the way through. Am I the only one? I am? Okay.

• The Keebler elves are gently mischievous and fun. The adorable little cartoon people appeal to kids, who beg their parents to buy the cookies. But since the parents grew up with the elves, it’s not too hard a sale. That’s the power of a strong brand with an appealing image that remains consistent over time. A quality product doesn’t hurt, either.

The point of all this is, I understand conveying a product’s qualities via a brand symbol of some kind. What I don’t get very well is how to do this “personal branding” thing for myself.

What if I adopted a spokesthing to represent me? No, that’s so yesterday. R.I.P. Charlie the Tuna, Reddy Electric and Speedy Alka-Seltzer. Besides, what kind of animal or other creature would represent a writer? A mole who digs for just the right phrase? A brain whose frontal lobe lights up like a Christmas tree, to represent creative ideas sparking? A pen that flies? A computer with a thought bubble? Naah. To build a personal brand today, you use different tactics.

Oddly enough, a personal brand today is something you construct, not in person, but through social media. I just read an article about “7 Ways to Start Building Your Personal Brand for Free.” These suggestions sound helpful. But in the advertising or marketing business, at least, there’s no substitute for getting to know people. In person, not online.

Social media “personal branding” tactics can be a helpful part of your overall strategy. But it’s important also to get out and get to know people, either in networking groups, industry meetings or social settings. If the only close relationship you have is with your computer, that’s not good.

There’s an old sales formula that still is valid: people have to Know, Like and Trust you before they give you business. Just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Summertime, and the livin’ is queasy

The Kansas City area is being bludgeoned by a big thermometer reading 96 and heat indices up to 110 degrees. Where are all those people who smugly commented during our cold winter, “Well, there’s yer global warming for ya?”

This year, so far, we’ve received more than 23 inches of rain. Normal is about 4.32 inches. Did the global warming experts say something about “extremes” of weather?

Well, it’s a good time to stay inside and work. Have been writing copy for a corporate website, and a load of proofreading work seems to be headed my way.

Haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been working on getting the house ready to sell. Most of that is done now, and the Open House was yesterday. Waiting for feedback from the realtor. Cross your fingers for me.

Blogging may be on hold for awhile…

Ha ha. The other day, I thought this house stuff would be done in 10 days. Silly me.

The first floor *would* be done, if certain things didn’t have to be done over again. Painters miss things my decorator/stager thinks are essential. She’s much more particular than I am.

The entire second floor needs to be repainted, too. Phooey. When this is all done, the house will have been totally repainted, inside and out. Well, paint is cheap, and if it makes my house look $$$$ better, it’s worth it. Right?

Did I mention I’m getting a St. Joseph statue to bury in the yard? Sheesh. I’m not even Catholic, but whatever works…

Maybe I should start another blog called “This House For Sale.”

Photo of mine makes national magazine cover!

Did I mention I’m a photographer, too?

Rob Boston, of Americans United for Separation of Church & State, asked me to take photos of a former pastor who had lost his congregation because he didn’t think a mandatory religious assembly in a public school was right. And one of my shots of him made the cover of the July issue of “Church & State” magazine!

— NEWS FLASH! — It’s on the magazine’s website. Take a look, and read the article, too. It’s a case of a man standing up for what he thinks is right and losing his job for his trouble.

Need photos taken for an article or ad? Call me.