Is it Time for Fedex to Overhaul their Brand?

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When one of your senior executives has to quickly produce an apology video, your brand is in real danger.

Along with many of you, we’ve seen the video showing one of our couriers carelessly and improperly delivering a package the other day. As the leader of our pickup and delivery operations across America, I want you to know that I was upset, embarrassed, and very sorry for our customer’s poor experience. This goes directly against everything we have always taught our people and expect of them. It was just very disappointing.

As an aside, if your name includes “III” or “the third”, you may come across a little pretentious when you speak to the masses.

This video, which appeared shortly before Christmas, is Fedex’s response to this video, which shows a Fedex driver throwing a box over a short fence, apparently while the recipient was home.


But that last video has nothing on this video of another misbehaving Fedex driver:

It’s probably time for Fedex to give some serious thought about how they can start delivering a better customer experience. A brand that doesn’t really understand how important it is to deliver that experience is a doomed one, especially with the voice that today’s consumers have.

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Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Entire Branding Team

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This is the manual for brand identity projects. Not only is it widely acclaimed in the industry’s leading magazines like Communication Arts, but I’ve also seen concepts from this book adapted to the processes of many leading design agencies. Anyone doing branding work should be using this book.

Buy this book.

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XKCD on Brand Identity

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Industry specific jargon aside (this would build a brand, using a unique brand identity), he has a good point. Except that store brands are already doing this. Here’s an example of Walmart’s Great Value packaging, designed by Elmwood:

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Paul Mitchell’s Culture of Giving

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Is there anything about this photo that looks authentic? The backdrop is clearly Photoshopped in, and something looks off about the kids and Paul – though that could just be poor photography. If your brand is going to put out stuff like this, why bother?

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Occupy Wall Street Branding Blunders

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It seems pretty obvious that a corporate brand shouldn’t try to profit from an anti-big-corporation-movement, but this piece on Brandchannel says otherwise.

When Jay-Z’s Rocawear brand yanked its “Occupy Wall Street” shirts over criticism about profiting off a social movement (with no plans to donate anything back to Occupy Wall Street), the lesson was clear: Those capitalizing on OWS must tread lightly or risk major PR blowback.

Nice profiteering Rocawear. The whole article focuses on a wine conglomerate that has recently filed a Trademark application for “Wine for the 99%”. As Brandchannel adroitly points out, the wine industry profits heavily off of undocumented immigrant labour:

The problem is that the wine industry—especially the low-end segment—is a huge beneficiary of undocumented immigrant labor. In fact, the California Association of Winegrowers president once estimated that up to 70 percent of those employed in California’s wine industry may be undocumented. The 2010 comments by the CEO of Wine Group competitor Bronco, were sobering. A May 2011 New York Times investigation begins “Nearly every drop of Napa County’s world-class wine is produced by migrant labor.” While new federal regulations are in place to increase fines for such hiring practices, a lawsuit suspending implication of the law for the time being.

Irony much? It’s hard to imagine how these brands could be less authentic. Read the whole thing on Brandchannel: Occupy Spritzer, Anyone? Wine Group Trademarks ‘Wine For The 99%’

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Tiny Bakery Loses Thousands in Bad Groupon Deal

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This BBC article reports that a Berkshire bakery has nearly been run out of business by a overly “successful” Groupon deal. The owner, Rachel Brown, described these coupon sites well:

Without doubt, it was my worst ever business decision.

Groupon had this to say to the BBC:

We are actively engaged with all our partners at every stage.

Uh-huh. From now on this bakery will be known as that one bakery that almost went out of business, but stayed alive by cutting corners and bringing in unqualified labour. Though caveat emptor applies here, I reckon. Advertisers are buying an advertising service from the coupon sites, though it may not feel like it.

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Gravity Defyer Logo no Joke

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Business Insider is reporting that the logo for Gravity Defyer shoes isn’t a mistake, it’s really intended to look like sperm. A running joke in the design community — the logo was typically shown with a comment that someone must have gotten fired, or been angry with their boss — the logo is apparently quite earnest. From the article:

Our logo is deliberate. Our customers feel like they are getting the beginning of a new life when they try our shoes. We are not embarrassed by it.”
— Alexander Elnekaveh, CEO of Gravity Defyer

I’m not sure where this direction came from, but it’s remarkably bad. In the end, it could be quite a good idea, as the old saying goes, “any press is good press.”

Have a look at the Gravity Defyer website for more highly questionable sperm-influenced design.

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Assorted Cleverness

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Floods in Bartlesville, Oklahoma complete this billboard.


I really appreciate the kind of thought that goes into creating an experience like this. A great use of surprise and delight.


This is K-Mart’s error page for gamers. If you don’t “get” this instruction, don’t worry. You just have to know that it fits perfectly with their audience. Inside jokes like this work really well to create a sense of community.



Click to view full-size.

The ad on the left was placed in Cosmo, and the ad on the right was placed in assorted men’s magazines (eg: Maxim). The men’s explains that the women’s ad is creating a subliminally positive image of men that drink Molson Canadian. If they only ran the men’s ad, would it have made any difference?

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Paul Rand on Options, the NeXT Logo

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I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’
— Steve Jobs, talking about Paul Rand

I’ve heard this before, and while I like the sentiment, I can’t help but think it’s either incredibly pompous or ignorant. I think I’d balance it off of some of the things that Michael Beirut says in this Creative mornings talk, where he points out that his clients aren’t any different from anyone else’s, and that while some people think that Pentagram clients self-select, they’re the same random mix of people that anyone else gets. Those clients aren’t going to swallow such an egotistical line, even if you’re the top designer in the world.

Still, the idea that Paul Rand has, that he’s going to understand your problem and solve it for you (and so there is only one correct answer), is a pretty nice one for those of us that design corporate brand identities. And why not, it seems pretty logical.

When Paul Rand presented his NeXT logo, he did it with a custom-made book (scroll to the bottom of the page, look under “presentations”) that walked Steve Jobs through the problem, and the thought process that went into designing the logo (more scans of the book are available at Imprint). Which is absolutely how you’d have to do it, if you’re only presenting the one concept: you’re telling the story about how the identity is fated to look like this, and not like anything else. If you can get that story right, presenting one option will work. But it might help if you’re not quite as brusque with the client as Mr. Rand is quoted as being.

As an aside, I happen to think that the NeXT logo is poorly done.

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Tim Hortons Jumps the Shark

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When Tim Horton’s recently announced that they’d be adding espresso to their lineup in a bid to take on Starbucks, I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.

This move is so stunningly ignorant of the brand, I question who is in charge at Tim Horton’s, and how disconnected are they from their customers. Tim Horton’s is defined as much by what it is, as what it isn’t. Tim Horton’s isn’t Starbucks. The two tribes couldn’t be further apart, or more clearly defined. So this move to capture some of the Starbucks audience is particularly puzzling. Nevermind that espresso doesn’t fit into the Tim Horton’s brand of simple, Canadian comfort food.

This is where Tim Horton’s jumps the shark. I eagerly await their next brand extension, but I’m not sure how they can get further from their audience and brand than this. Maybe sushi?

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