Last week, the Malaysia Ministry of information launched a new ‘logo’ to commemorate the 55th Malaysian National Day.
Traditionally a competition is held to create a new logo and the winner is determined by public votes.
This year the ‘logo’ was created by the creative department of the Ministry and an announcement was made, complete with an explanation for the design on the Ministry website.
The ‘logo’ was released to a barrage of abuse from the Malaysian public. One writer for a respected online newspaper wrote, ““It is an insult to everyone when the government passes off this unbearably disgusting powerpoint screenshot as a logo. Now come on guys, we can do much better than this!”
Another called it “hideous” and another, ‘disastrous.” Within hours there was a Facebook page critizing the logo and calling for it to be withdrawn.
By Sunday, only three days after the launch of the new ‘logo’ the Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim announced on Twitter that the ‘logo’ would not be used.
In late 2010, Gap spent a fortune a new logo, developing an advertising campaign and buying airtime to tell the world about the new logo and what a great and cool company Gap is. A Facebook page was created, essentially to broadcast the same message.
Unfortunately in a foretaste of what would happen to the Malaysia logo, customers, consumers, designers and others universally hated it, expressing their feelings via thousands of tweets and, ironically with Facebook messages on the Gap and other often humourous but always derogatory, Facebook pages.
Under immense consumer and other pressure and in a matter of days, Gap vowed to return to the original logo. But the company spent a small fortune developing the new identity and as a result had little choice but to go ahead with its upcoming advertising campaign.
Gap learned some expensive lessons two years ago and although I don’t thing the Malaysian issue will cost as much financially, a few egos will be bruised.
So what lessons can governments and corporate brands learn from this debacle?
1) Carry out research with consumers/citizens. Even an established brand must carry out research before making a decision that will impact its relationship with those consumers, the people who made the brand what it is.
This is especially true with government organisations, especially in difficult times and when dealing with sensitive issues such as the celebration of the country’s freedom from Colonialism.
The new logo was obviously not tested (Internal testing doesn’t count, especially in government organisations where questioning decisions made by senior personnel is not encouraged). Big mistake.
2) Understand what is a logo and what it can do for you. Sadly it is often the case that there isn’t a deep enough understanding of what a logo can do for an organisation. Furthermore, few institutions protect their logos to ensure consistent use. This is changing, but slowly.
A logo provides a visual differentiation point for your organisation by identifying the product or service you provide. In the case of the Ministry any attempt to create a connection between the country the ministry was representing and her citizens was lost.
Logos do go out of fashion, but a serious misjudgement has been made if the logo goes out of fashion at launch.
When creating a new logo, there are 5 critical factors to take into account:
a. Make sure you can explain the logo in no more than 2 sentences.
b. A logo won’t always be in colour so make sure it looks good in black and white
c. It must be relevant – if you are trying to connect with young people, your corporate identity (and those who speak on your behalf) must be relevant to those people
d. It must be memorable (preferably for the right reasons!)
e. It must be flexible and scalable because it maybe used on a print advertisement, a website, blog, a billboard, a t-shirt, a watch, thumbdrive and so on.
3) Social media is not a fad or to be taken lightly. It plays a critical role in the success or failure of many tactical campaigns – think Tourism Malaysia, Old Spice, The Malaysian Prime Minister and the American President. Social Media CAN effect change so learn to work with it. But remember it is not a soapbox. Simple consumer research at the logo development stage on Facebook and Twitter would have saved The Ministry a lot of embarrassment and also improved citizen engagement.
4) Have a strategy for your tactics. Not many new Logos are well received initially. But many of them are now very familiar – Pepsi, Citi, Accenture, Qantas etc. The new logo was released into the public domain and the Ministry appears to have been taken by surprise at the reaction. Within three days it was withdrawn.
Was that the right thing to do? Was the way it was withdrawn the right way? Was there a plan to deal with negative comments? Who was in charge of managing the social discussions? Why was the Minister, traditionally a macro manager, managing micro issues? Could the logo have been reviewed and reengineered, perhaps after citizen feedback and the discousre leveraged to better use?
5) React quickly and positively. Despite some initial fumbling, the Ministry reacted well to the situation. However, rather than withdrawing the logo, it should have sought suggestions to improve the logo on Facebook. This would have allowed them to engage citizens and build a positive relationship with citizens and encourage them to improve the logo.
The way they then managed the responses and implemented any recommendations would have had a positive impact on the brand and as a result, the government, going forward.
It’s too early to tell what will be the impact of this event on the Ministry, the Minister and the Malaysia Nation brand.
But one thing is for sure, the development and launching of a new government linked logo, related to such an important element of the internal development of the Malaysia Nation Brand must be taken more seriously in the future.