Look before you leap
Know Thy Competitor
Analyzing ones competition can be as important as analyzing ones self. This is an exercise we generally do not need to talk our clients into. Most organizations understand, at least on the surface, that taking a hard squinty look at the competition is beneficial and revealing. What’s working? What’s failing? How are they getting or not getting attention? How do they see the landscape of our shared industry? All valid questions, most of which we have no intention of answering in this blog.
See The Difference, Make A Difference
For our purposes, we are focusing on the visual identity of a brand—the colors, the look, and in particular, the logo. We have stomped our feet and waggled our fingers frequently about the notion that too many folks believe a logo is a brand—it ain’t—we’ll leave at that for now.
We’re looking at the sharp end of a brand, the banner that flies overhead, the symbol that rides out front. Behind that logo as a tactic, is strategic blood and sweat… well, when done right there is. Examining the logo and understanding the foundation beneath it is helpful, but as we might review 250 logos for a branding project, we are by no means performing branding forensics on them all.
If you are assessing a current logo, do you compete on a visual level? If you’re creating a logo from thin air, what elements are overused, all too typical, and too closely associated with your rival or rivals?
A Sporting Chance
When we created a full rebrand for sporting client McDavid, we were given free rein to blow-up the existing visual, while holding true to the foundational anchors of the brand. In that case we spent time studying the big dogs in our field, such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebok and Champion. (Just a handful of obscure brands you may or may not have heard of… our competition, gulp.) This analysis helped us produced something uniquely McDavid, something with its own singular story, something exclusive and robust. Long story short: Things went very very well for McDavid.
The Short Course In Golf Branding
We mentioned reviewing 250 logos above, and we weren’t exaggerating. While working with a Golf Club client on an identity rebrand we examined the merits of over 250 golf club and course logos. Spoiler Alert — Holy heck there’s a lot of similarity out there! It seems one good idea is worth a legion of copycats. For fun here are the eight branding buckets where golf logos live:
NAME: The name of the course is depicted in the logo. Winged Foot = a foot w wings.
WILDLIFE: This category could easily have been called “birds.”
LANDSCAPE: The actual geographic representation of the place. Also, lots of trees.
LANDMARK: Based on an area’s iconic objects on or near the golf property, i.e., Pebble Beach.
HISTORY: Less used and more interesting. What happened on the land prior to the golf course? Murders and other atrocities are best left in the past.
LOCATION: Literal shapes and physical representations of a State, a lake, or bay (and inevitably “bay” will end up in the name).
TRADITION: Crests, emblems, shields and monograms. Private clubs have an uncontrollable urge to use their initials in their logos.
GOLF: Perhaps the most common. Silhouettes of swinging golfers, tees, balls, flags and crisscrossed clubs … add the monogram and you’re done.
Fave & Flub
FAVE. Derek sez, Whistling Straights in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is a wonderful logo, a smart name, and a great example of course visual branding done well. And damn, he’s right.
FLUB. it’s a big one everybody. Derek boldly calls out Augusta National. Take a breath, we know, it feels sacrilegious. But think about it, an outline of the United States map, with a gaping hole in the vicinity of Georgia, and a golf flag jammed into said hole. C’mon. Clearly, the world ignores the logo because the tradition of The Masters, the grandeur of the place, and the history of epic matches have more than overcome the embarrassing logo.
Study your competition’s brand, start with their logo. Break it down. Learn from it. Absorb it. Then throw it away and get on with being original, inspired and distinct. Essentially, it pays to do your homework, stay in school, drink your milk, and look both ways.
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