Many years ago a group of businessmen decided they needed a logo. They were very successful, very entrepreneurial and they operated in a high risk, high reward, sector.
They had a global presence via a loose franchisee arrangement and felt that a logo would bind them together, help cement customer expectations as well as providing immediate brand recognition. So they approached a design agency who came up with 5 logo concepts for internal and external research.
To avoid the like/dislike response they agreed 5 evaluation criteria.
Standout. Relevance. Memorability. Simplicity. Flexibility.
The 5 concepts were:
• RPP in big letters.
• A tombstone
• A plain red colour
• Crossed swords
• A crown surrounded by jewelry.
The internal research proved to be a nightmare and despite the criteria there was no consensus. Subjectivity crept in and all concepts were criticised for effectively not doing all the marketing for them.
The external customer facing research killed a few concepts but didn’t find a winner. RPP* failed because at the time, literacy was limited. The tombstone was understood in the west, but in some markets it wasn’t understood at all. The plain red was liked but not very distinctive as a challenger used something similar. The crossed swords were already used by Meissen porcelain and the last thing they wanted to be associated with was fine pottery! The crown was universally understood but didn’t really communicate the brand promise or breadth of the offer.
So the design agency took on board the learnings and came back with a recommend. It had both brand promise and provided a brand signature. It was very visual and didn’t need literacy levels to be understood. It was very simple and quite memorable. It had the potential to be universally recognised and could work across many communication platforms. (It lacked a bit of colour though).
There was still some objections internally from the franchisees but finally the chairman stepped forward and made it clear that it was their brand activities around the logo which would ultimately give it meaning. No logo could do everything for them. He banged heads together (occasionally detached from their torsos) and gave them no option but to run with it. “So long as you deliver our agreed standards of behaviour at every customer engagement point then the logo will work.” He snarled.
So, the Jolly Roger was born**. A logo that has stood the test of centuries, been consistent, has 100% prompted awareness and has the same meaning in every country on the planet.
Eat you heart out*** BMW, Apple, Shell et all. This has got to be the world’s greatest logo. Shame they weren’t entrepreneurial enough to register the IP!
* RPP– Rape, Pillage, Plunder.
** – This is a fictitious creative tale.
*** “Eat your heart out” is particularly aligned to pirate brand behavioral standards.