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Tag: brand identity

August 20th, 2013

Cannibalism, Dystopia and Product Marketing

The year is 2022. The earth is overpopulated. The skies are polluted, the oceans are dying, and food is desperately scarce. For most people, daily sustenance is provided by an affordable plankton-based food called Soylent Green. But there’s a problem. (Spoiler alert!) You see, Soylent Green is people. It’s manufactured using one of the few sources of protein left on our hopeless planet – dead human bodies.

That’s the premise behind the 1973 movie, Soylent Green. The movie isn’t remembered for its great storytelling, acting or cinematography. Instead, it’s Charleton Heston’s melodramatic shout, “Soylent Green is people!” That famous line was ranked as one of the American Film Institute’s 100 top movie quotes. It was even spoofed by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live back in 1993.

The topics of human cannibalism, dystopian science fiction and marketing don’t often intersect. That’s why I was intrigued to come across a Kickstarter campaign for a meal-replacement drink named, you guessed it, Soylent.

100% People-Free Soylent

100% People-Free Soylent


Soylent was conceived by a 24-year old engineer, Rob Rhinehart, from San Francisco. He wanted to create a low-cost alternative to traditional food that would eliminate the time, effort and drudgery of shopping for food, eating and cleaning up. Of course, the product, if widely adopted, would benefit the planet as well. Less food waste. No kitchen fires. No factory farming. The obesity problem solved. The end of global hunger and malnourishment.

I can only imagine what I would have said if Rhinehart had come to me for advice:

Rhinehart: I have this new product I want to market. It’s called Soylent.

Me: You mean like Soylent Green? But Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: Yes, I know. But my Soylent is 100% human-free. Actually, it’s totally meat-free. And, anyway, I named the product after the book, not the movie.

Me: Yes, but Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: I’ve been testing the formula on myself, and I plan to get FDA approval soon.

Me: Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: I’ve eaten nothing but Soylent for the past 60 days, and I feel great.

Me: It’s people! People! Peeeeople!

So how has Rhinehart’s Kickstarter campaign been going?

In less than 30 days, Soylent achieved its goal of raising $100,000. Currently, they have more than $1 million in funding from more than 10,000 Kickstarter backers. The Washington Post, The Economist, The Telegraph and Business Week have all covered the story.

So much for conventional wisdom.

That’s the frustrating thing about marketing. It’s never easy to predict the collective behavior of people. Something that sounds ridiculous to you can make perfect sense to a particular audience of people that thinks differently. And, when you’re pitching your product directly to the crowd, rather than through typical mass media channels, boldness often trumps prudence.

If Rob Rhinehart had gone to a product naming company, he would have probably come out of the process with a name like Inspiralite or Nutriyum or Vitaquaff. Not Soylent. Because, Rule #1, you NEVER EVER associate your product name with negative imagery. Like, um, cannibalism.

But in this case, it’s very likely that Rob’s quirky product name is responsible, to a large extent, for his success to date. For the news media, a name like Soylent has a ready-made hook. The story practically writes itself. Publicity is a no-brainer.

With that awareness they’ve gained, Rhinehart and his crew have an opportunity to pitch their product directly to people concerned about issues like hunger, sustainability, obesity, animal rights and so on. With Soylent, these same people can invest just $65 and maybe, just maybe, help alleviate those problems in some small way. Well, that’s the promise, anyway.

Some questions: Now that their startup capital is secure, will Soylent be successful as a commercial product? Will Rob and his team stick with their product name or opt for something without the negative connotations? Will we all forgo breakfast, lunch and dinner and drink Soylent instead so that we never face the grim future portrayed in the movie, Soylent Green?

I won’t even try to guess.

March 22nd, 2012

What a $19 Logo Doesn’t Buy You

There are lots of companies offering logo design services. Some have the talent and creativity to deliver the goods. Others are known for churning out low-cost logos. There are even websites that will sell you a logo for just $19.

Buyer beware if you decide to go the cheap route. Because, while a cheap logo may seem like a great buy initially, such designs usually come at a cost when you look at the big picture. You sacrifice uniqueness. You don’t benefit from the experience a qualified designer brings to the table. And, often, you end up having to redo the logo once you’ve outgrown it.

Keep in mind, your logo is the most fundamental part of your brand identity next to the name of your company. Your logo will likely be on every bit of business communication you do. Items like signage, advertisements, websites, press releases, and so on – for years and years. That’s why it’s so important to get a logo that fits your company.

At MWB, we have the design skills it takes to create a visually pleasing logo. But we have the broader experience needed to think beyond the design, itself.

We understand that a logo is more than just a combination of words, pictures, colors and type. It’s the visual “distillation” of your brand identity. And, as such, it should provide some insight into your company’s brand positioning and personality. A logo should reflect your brand’s aspirations. It should grow with you.

All too often, logos aren’t given the priority they deserve. But it pays to invest in a good logo, rather than regret your choice years down the road when a brand redesign will be costly and disruptive to your current marketing program.

We don’t take logo design lightly because we see the importance. Our designers put in the time it takes to keep up with current visual styles and techniques. (The goal here is not to follow trends, but rather to ensure designs are unique and not in danger of becoming quickly outdated.) We test our logos for various applications (letterhead, signage, print ads, and so on) to make sure they work correctly. And, of course, we give a lot of thought to the intangibles: Is the logo an accurate reflection of your brand values? Is it communicating the right ideas? Does the logo’s style match the brand or is there a disconnect? Is it distinctive?

Think of your logo as the foundation of your marketing. If you get the logo right, it’s a whole lot easier to build up the rest of your marketing campaign.