As 2019 comes to a close, it affords an opportunity to look at how design has changed on a larger scale: over a decade. This list is in no way conclusive, nor will it be able to catch all of those branding wins, losses, and changemakers that made an impact on the design industry over the years. But with the benefit of time, we’re giving the era a bird’s-eye view. So here goes—the best, the worst, and the most controversial brand designs of the decade.


[Photo: Budweiser]


What’s incredible about the Budweiser identity is how well Jones Knowles Ritchie, the creative agency behind the rebrand, has sold the 140-year-old brand as a set of values. Its branding sets up a value system about the company itself, as “America’s Beer,” but it also establishes a sense of identity on the part of the consumer: to drink a Bud is to communicate your personal values. Budweiser is patriotic, its red and white label as American as apple pie. It’s the kind of beer Joe Six Pack would open, but with 14 custom type elements on the label, boy, that label is refined.

For that reason, it has found success in the apparel market, too: Consumers are buying Budweiser the brand on goods you can’t even drink. Perhaps you’d like an oversize Budweiser T-shirt from Urban Outfitters for $39. Or perhaps, you’d like a Moschino riff on the Budweiser brand as a $310 swimsuit. Somehow, Budweiser became cool, whether or not you drink it out of a can.

[Image: Google]


In the little over two decades since Google was founded, it’s expanded immensely. But in 2015, it dropped some extra baggage, and we said goodbye to the serifs on Google’s wordmark and hello to its new sans serif custom typeface Product Sans. That change was just a small part of the new brand identity the tech conglomerate rolled out that year as it sought to establish an overall sense of visual minimalism across the many, many more places users would come into contact with the brand—without losing the brand identity.

In addition to dropping the serifs now associated with its years as a mere search engine, Google made the new wordmark scalable for varying digital applications. It also created a shortened “G” logo for use on even smaller scales. And it animated the mark as a functional tool to support user experience, for instance, transforming into dots that let you know pages are loading. The new system serves both form and function. It kept its kooky colors. But it also adapts to you, no matter where you find it.

[Image: MTV]


In 2015, MTV got weird. (Weirder?) The channel became known for changing American youth culture, and the TV and music that catered to them, when it launched in the early 1980s—so much so that a generation was named after it. While that’s some nice caché, that generation outgrew the brand, and following a 2008 refresh that largely unified its look across affiliates, the company needed an overhaul for a new generation of teens: digital natives. So, they turned to the web for inspiration and created an early-web anti-design fever dream of a system: acid-trip colors, pixelated GIFs, Comic Sans. “One thing we wanted to make sure about this rebrand was that it didn’t stick to one specific, static aesthetic,” Sean Saylor, then MTV International’s creative vice president, told Fast Company. “We wanted it to constantly be evolving and iterating, like the internet.” MTV for the internet age.

[Photo: Corey Torpie/courtesy Tandem Design NYC]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign

In 2018, 28-year-old first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated incumbent opponent Joe Crowley in her district and won a seat in Congress. She did so with fresh campaign branding, designed by Tandem Design NYC. The campaign leaned heavily on inspiration from previous grassroots political campaigns from Cesar Chavez to the United Farm Workers movement in the 1960s.

The Tandem NYC team overcame the typographic challenge of fitting Ocasio-Cortez’s very long full name within small compositions—on top of introducing bilingual and sheared type treatments, which created a sense of movement. The brand also introduced a fresh color palette, anchored in purple with vivid yellow accents that eschewed traditional visual tropes in politics like red, white, and blue.


[Images: Gap Inc]


Gap overhauled its logo in 2010, ditching the white all-cap serif type within the navy blue box it’s known for with a new one designed by Laird and Partners. The new logo featured a black Helvetica wordmark, with the navy box de-emphasized and placed in the top right corner of the logomark. (See, still there!) “We believe this is a more contemporary, modern expression,” Bill Chandler, then vice president of corporate communications, told Fast Company at the time. “The only nod to the past is that there’s still a blue box, but it looks forward.”

It was met with an immediate wave of criticism. It spurred a redesign contest. The Gap logo got a Twitter handle. And ultimately, amid the outcry, the Gap logo got scrapped.

[Animation: FC]

Trump campaign logo

When the Trump campaign announced Mike Pence would be joining the ticket as Donald Trump’s running mate, they also released an official logo. The logo, a rather unfortunate take on the American flag, depicts a T for “Trump” interlocking with—some say penetrating—the “P” abbreviating Pence below it. Needless to say, the logo was soon removed from the campaign’s site and replaced with the stacked version that is, well, also bad. But at least it’s not NSFW?

But, as objectively “bad” as the updated design of the logo was—not to mention the Make America Great Again hat—debate rages as to whether despite all odds, “bad” was actually most effective in communicating to his target audience—potential Trump voters. And maybe the conversation we need to be having is not whether or not a logo is good or bad, but is it effective? (Don’t worry, this logo was not.)

Most controversial

[Image: Wolff Olins]

The Met

It could be safe to assume that many people don’t know what a “ligature” is. It is the term for a single glyph created by the combination of two letterforms—like æ. Seems harmless, right? So, as an unassuming individual with just that little bit of information about ligatures, you might be surprised to learn that in 2016, that little glyph incited a serious case of mass design hysteria.

The specific cause? Design agency Wolff Olins had unveiled a new brand identity for the Metropolitan Museum of Art , designed to be “welcoming and accessible while retaining gravitas and flexibility across user touch-points, communications, and locations.” The identity was meant to create a sense of cohesion between three physical locations and bridge the brand’s web experience with, oh, 5,000 years worth of art. Not many brands house a collection that goes that far back. To do so, the team took a design approach that combined serif and sans serif letterforms to connect letters and “to acknowledge the Met’s unique ability to embrace both classical and modern art as part of a united whole.” Red was adopted to convey a “timeless, cross-cultural symbolism of passion and vitality.” “The Metropolitan Museum of Art” was also abridged to “The Met,” which many people use to refer to the museum verbally, but which caused a freakout when seen visually. Vulture‘s Justin Davidson called it a “typographic bus crash.” HuffPost, eloquently, just wanted to know: “Whyyyy?!?!” All considered, the Met, and the 5,000 years’ worth of art within it, still stand.


[Image: Pentagram]

In January 2019, Slack unveiled a new logo designed by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and his team. Slack was previously well known for its multicolor hashtag. The Pentagram designers evolved the mark into a proprietary symbol: a multicolor pinwheel made up of shapes they call “droplets” and “lozenges.” Reactions to the design were strong. The combination of the pinwheel shape with the individual forms that made it caused Boing Boing to give the mark the unfortunate moniker of “penis swastika.” The name got picked up everywhere. Now that’s a constructive design critique.

But Slack was prepared for a meltdown. “With products like Slack, which people encounter everyday and are so engrained in their lives, changing the branding is bound to cause dissonance and backlash,” Bierut told Design Week. “Slack was completely prepared for this and anticipated that 95% of its audience would hate the change because they love Slack so much.” Some even learned to like it.

[Image: courtesy Hillary for America]

Hillary Clinton campaign

The Clinton campaign’s brand identity seemed to have everything going for it. It was sleek, adaptable, and beautifully designed by one of the most well-known design agencies in the world, Pentagram. And yet, it failed: After Clinton lost the presidential election in the fall of 2016, some began to wonder if the sleek look of the campaign was part of the problem. Why didn’t strong design make the difference?

The loss spurred industry questions about authenticity, relevancy, and corporatism. It led to self-reflection. And it spurred a reckoning. The reasons for why and how the Clinton campaign’s design was ineffective—especially compared with the Trump campaign logo—are still debated, and in some sense, left unanswered.


It’s easy to find yourself bogged down in the day-to-day rush of developing and sending email campaigns. Implementing a few simple processes can help your team identify efficiencies and opportunities you might not see when you are in the weeds.

Subscribe to your own emails. Mary Sohn, a member of the industry group Women of Email, recommended in its private Facebook Group to audit your subscription process at least annually. Going through the process of signing up for your own emails allows you to experience it from the user’s perspective.

Designate representatives from other departments to participate in an annual audit of the subscribing process as well. Their perspectives may help identify gaps in your email campaigns and journeys.

Look for API solutions. Are there new API integrations available that could help automate and speed up some of your processes? Women of Email member and marketing manager for demand generation at Advisor Group Jenn Clauss says email marketers should look for API connections to increase efficiencies.

Rather than having to manually pull data from one source to enter it into another system, is there a new API connection available? Start by looking into what API integrations between your systems are available, and what steps are required for setup. This can help eliminate the need for operating in multiple platforms.

For example, Clauss said, she set up two new APIs between LinkedIn Campaign Manager and Zoom for Oracle Marketing Cloud this year that enabled her “to reduce the number of campaign canvases necessary for my personalized lead gen campaigns from 44 to 17. I probably spent less than an hour on set up.”

Hypothesize. Test. Test again. Share what you learn. Kate Barret, owner of eFocus Marketing and author of E-telligence. Email marketing isn’t dead, the way you’re using it is and Women of Email member, encourages email marketers to strategically test different components of email campaigns.

In addition to testing, establishing a clear hypothesis with measurable KPIs will create learning opportunities that can be shared across an organization. Consider involving a finite number of stakeholders from other teams in the testing process for a fresh perspective.

Organizational processes often become more challenging than they need to be. Establishing a solid process for your email marketing program will help tremendously during periods of high-volume production — and will help email marketers manage incoming requests for campaigns in a more streamlined manner.

About The Author

Jennifer Videtta Cannon serves as Third Door Media’s Senior Editor, covering topics from email marketing and analytics to CRM and project management. With over a decade of organizational digital marketing experience, she has overseen digital marketing operations for NHL franchises and held roles at tech companies including Salesforce, advising enterprise marketers on maximizing their martech capabilities. Jennifer formerly organized the Inbound Marketing Summit and holds a certificate in Digital Marketing Analytics from MIT Sloan School of Management.


About The Author

Yihui Liu is a UI/visual inhouse designer and illustrator with a huge passion for human-centered design. After studying and working in Beijing, she completed …
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Brand illustrations are an adaptable and effective way to build a company’s visual brand. In this article, Yihui Liu outlines her process for developing a strong brand illustration system. Her approach has been refined over 10 years of study and professional experience in China and Europe, and draws examples from her latest work as Lead Designer at Spacebase.

In the flood of online content, companies live or die by their brand image. A brand image has to express the company’s message and connect with users, who should instantly recognize it across different media, even away from the company’s website and marketing content. A strong brand image is like an anchor, helping ensure user attachment and fix value associations.

Brand image is typically built up from different visual elements — logos, color palette, a particular font. Alongside these, illustrations are another powerful means of visual communication which are more and more in demand for online UI.

Why? Because illustrations introduce narrative elements to visual content and allow for subtler emotions or more complex situations to be expressed. Including human figures make ideas active and accessible, often in a light-hearted or whimsical way. Illustrations turn away from realism and let you build the world as the brand sees it.

This is an important piece in the larger puzzle of online campaigns. Digital design, using vectors, favors clean, bold images which translate well into distinctive branding illustrations. Rather than single-use designs, these online illustrations are being used as part of comprehensive visual systems. Images in an illustration system share a unifying mood or style, which makes them identifiable with the brand’s wider image and message, even as they represent different aspects of a product or service.

Illustration systems increase the range and depth of messages a company communicates visually about itself, from mission statements to practical product support, while strengthening brand image.

Design Process

So how should you go about designing an effective brand illustration system? I take you through my design process, with examples from the recent overhaul we undertook at Spacebase.

Research The Brand

First thing’s first — know the brand you’ll be designing for. This might sound obvious but don’t underestimate the work involved. Even if you think you already have a working knowledge, it’s worth investing time to refresh or deepen your understanding of the brand.

Dig into the culture behind the company and its products or services. What is their principal message, what forms do their existing visual identity take, and what is the direction the company wants to grow in?

Investigating this thoroughly at the beginning will save you headaches and dead-ends later on.

Understand Stakeholder Needs

As well as doing your own research, you’ll need to speak to the stakeholder. This connection is crucial to the success of your design — so involve them early and keep them updated with the process.

Get answers to key questions about the design: where will the illustrations appear and what do they need to express? What kind of situations and emotions might they play on? What are the technical parameters you need to work within?

At this stage, the stakeholder might not be very clear about what they want. Nonetheless, you should listen carefully to their input and consider their expectations in relation to the goals of the business and their wider brand image.

At Spacebase, the aim was to make the online booking platform more approachable and human. I thought deeply about the relationship between meeting rooms and the people who use them. We wanted to capture the brand message of breaking out of regular workspaces, into new and exciting ones, in a smooth, convenient, supportive way. The designs had to come across as friendly, modern, and simple.

Organize Inspiration

A moodboard is essential for getting to grips with the input you receive and organizing your ideas. Collect images from competitors or companies in the field with similar qualities to your intended goal and then compile these into a resource. Looking at what inspires you can be a guide to the overall tone you want to achieve and suggest the way to a first iteration. This is also useful material to show the stakeholders, as it gives them a sense of the direction the illustrations will take before the work of creating concepts begins.

Some of the brand illustrations which inspired me. (Large preview)

For the Spacebase design, I was particularly inspired by the Airbnb, IBM, and Shopify illustrations. The simple design of people and spaces really stood out for me, and I was interested in how the muted color palettes keep the illustrations focused, without overwhelming the pictorial elements. They produce an impression of calm, warmth and inclusivity.

Concept Creation

After researching and moodboarding, I start sketching on Adobe Illustrator. Sometimes I use a Wacom tablet but mainly I stick to my mouse with the Pen tool. I use shapes to create a basic structure, and use the Pen tool to add detail and enhance the basic outline.

Drawing onscreen. (Large preview)

Bear in mind that the images you design should cohere to form a uniform system, not form standalone scenes. So even if this is the first iteration — aim to give the illustrations a distinctive flavor which you will be able to replicate across different designs in the future. This might not come at first but feel your way towards an internal logic for the branding illustrations and aim to be consistent with this in your decisions.

With the Spacebase illustrations, we focused on human characters and color scheme as ways to keep the images in line with other visual branding elements.

The evolution of the email banner for booking confirmations. (Large preview)

I started drawing the human characters with basic outlines, to get a feel for the emotions they would represent and how they would inhabit interior spaces. I wanted flowing lines to give them dynamic profiles and suggest movement. I also wanted to avoid anything that looked too heavy — lightweight and friendly were keywords. Diversity was also important to me, as Spacebase is an international company, and I always want viewers of illustrations to see themselves.

Alongside the human figures, I wanted the objects and environments to have a distinct style — abstract, futuristic and design-forward. We wanted to show interiors which are bright, beautiful, involving the users in the spatial dynamic, and with objects that suggest an idealized professional working environment. At the same time, these were not to distract attention. Spacebase is all about inspiring meeting rooms but their brand is more about the people who use these spaces. This took many iterations to get just right.

Exploring different lines and color palettes. (Large preview)

After the sketches had been refined, I thought about a color scheme. Colors are powerful and evoke instant reactions — so it was important to me not to overwhelm the illustrations. I wanted subtle shades to enhance and complement the scenes. The color scheme should also reflect the brand’s personality and match their other visual elements. For the Spacebase color scheme, it was important to break from monochrome and stay away from the drab colors normally associated with meeting rooms. Their main branding color is orange so I balanced this with cooler pastel tones: purple, sky blue, grey, and mustard yellow.


After the first iteration, get all the feedback you can.

Clearly, you need to speak to the main stakeholder for their take on your design. But also try to seek out the opinion of users or colleagues, if you have any — especially people who don’t work in design. Their responses can guide you toward the next steps you should take to improve the illustrations. Design for real target users, rather than imagined needs.

Overall I prefer to hear about people’s frustrations overhearing their praise. Accolades are nice but not terribly useful. Getting to know the pain points of users (or something that does not make sense to them visually), indicates where to focus your attention. Even if they don’t agree with your own ideas, the stakeholders and their users must love the design. Good design is in the eye of the user.

One of the illustrations I struggled with most at Spacebase was the banner for cancellation emails. Customers receive these either when they have canceled their own booking or when Spacebase has had to cancel it.

Nobody likes bad news, so I wanted the design to share their disappointment and suggest sympathy and understanding. Early versions were too heavy, though. Colleagues said it felt like the end of the world, that some drastic judgment had been passed. It took a long time (and many iterations) to move in a different direction.

The design for booking cancellation took many iterations. (Large preview)

In the end, we removed the human figures altogether. This was a way to avoid the illustration becoming too emotionally charged and give it a more neutral feel. The latest iteration minimizes the drama — it acknowledges an issue through semi-abstract representations of screens but also points to a future beyond the cancellation.

Reference Library

As you create your illustrations, it’s useful to build up a library of the different elements you have already used. This means you can refer back to them in the future and make sure you keep the style and feel consistent across different illustrations. Keeping your illustrations coherent is key to the overall effectiveness of your system in the long-term.

Image library for human figures. (Large preview)
Image library for objects. (Large preview)


Be prepared to go through this process many times.

We went through many stages to get to the final iterations. (Large preview)

Constant iteration is the most important part of producing a successful visual identity. Keep creating new versions, obtaining feedback, and drafting new iterations. Everything is a prototype and you have to stay open to tweaks in order to make your branding as relatable to users as possible. Keep stakeholders updated and involved and be ready for unexpected turns — design is also a journey and each step gets you closer to an exceptional result.

As long as you immerse yourself in research and feedback, you’ll be heading in the right direction. That’s what I find most rewarding about design — I am motivated by the ongoing process and when I feel like I’m constantly improving upon things, I am happy to be doing what I do.

The Spacebase branding illustrations have helped consolidate brand identity. (Large preview)

Smashing Editorial(cc, yk, il)


“I hate this TV” exclaimed my wife for the hundredth time, “I can never get the sound right.” While annoying to her, this comment cut me deeply; you see, I bought the TV as part of last year’s holiday shopping madness and have been regretting it ever since. Regret may be too weak of a word – as I let myself get duped into switching from the brand I originally intended to buy. This is a big-ticket item, so I did a lot of research. I made a long list of brands that I would consider, narrowed in on specific models, checked reviews and did side-by-side comparisons. Upon deciding, I researched buying options and prices and I knew exactly what I was going to buy (Samsung), where I was going to buy it (Amazon), and how much I was going to pay ($797).

Then I bought something else! I was taking advantage of Black Friday to stock up on some items I use regularly when it happened. The big box retailer was teeming with people eagerly filling their carts with great bargains. As I passed by the TV section, I was stopped in my tracks by a low price on a model that I had considered but dismissed from my long list. Overcome with the emotion of the moment and the idea of getting an immediate bargain on something I could take home that day, I opened my wallet, experiencing the dopamine kick that comes from anticipating my purchase.

The positive emotions gained from my purchase soon waned and the aforementioned regret began to kick-in as I realized – aided by my wife’s reminders – that there were good reasons I had decided not to buy that specific model.

It turns out that I am not alone in being overcome with shopping-mania during the holiday frenzy and convinced to make unplanned purchases.  According to Ipsos (my employer), more people expected themselves to make “spur of the moment” buying decisions this holiday season than to stick to their shopping list. Most prospective shoppers (65%) have a list in mind for Black Friday, but even more (72%) say they deviate from it.

We know purchase decisions are impacted by two dynamics, brand desire (what we want) and market effects (in-market factors like price, promotions, and availability). I had a clear desire for my preferred TV brand but was persuaded by the market effects.

During the holidays, the impact of market effects is greater than ever. Bombarded with promotions and driven by the festive spirit, consumers are tempted to reach for convenient or glitzy options, sometimes at the expense of their favorite brands. This is all the truer in the age of one-click purchasing and same-day deliveries.

Despite these challenges, the holiday season steadfastly remains the most important time of year for both consumers and brands. Companies with strong brand equity – built throughout the year – can weather the storm and even capitalize on consumer willingness to try new brands. The surge of emotions that accompany the holidays is an ideal opportunity to forge a lasting connection with consumers new and old alike. As we prepare for this holiday season, keep in mind these five strategies for navigating the pitfalls and possibilities of holiday marketing.

1. The early bird gets the worm

In this fiercely competitive climate, successful brands will build on existing brand equity with a seasonally-appropriate emotional touch. Apple’s 2013 “Misunderstood” is the perfect example of how consistently building equity can pay off when the brand story is bedecked with holiday spirit. In the ad, a teenager is shown butting heads with his family over the time he spends on his phone. The comedy of errors is resolved when it is revealed that he used Apple technology to forge a point around which his family could gather to share memories and create new ones.

The brand’s equity reinforces its positioning as a means of bringing people together, rather than keeping them apart. In turn, the ad’s emotional content, accentuated by seasonal sentimentality, earns Apple a spot in the audience’s heart; right next to their shopping list. Strong positioning is a key part of tapping into holiday purchasing trends, so smart brands will build equity year-round, placing them at the head of the pack when the holiday rush begins.

2. The holidays warm hearts; your brand should too

This time of year, more than any other, consumers are listening to their hearts more than their heads. Ads that are clear, direct, and emotive leverage audience engagement and allow your brand to compete in an environment replete with sentimental ads.  Prominence isn’t enough to secure a place in consumers’ minds though. Ads that are too complex, or deliver volumes of information, will be drowned out by the emotional tenor of the holiday season. Simple and emotive ads, like L.L. Bean’s #12daysofpuppies campaign, are far more likely to grab and hold attention while driving consistent engagement.

The much-anticipated seasonal favorite features curated images of particularly adorable puppies on the company’s official social media account. Followers are encouraged to share pictures of their own festive pups, yielding a seasonal event that has tugged on the public’s heartstrings for years and kept the brand at the forefront of holiday-shoppers’ minds.

3. Go back to basics: bring people together

Traditions unite the nostalgic past with the joyous present, giving us a focal point to gather around, to reminisce, and to create new memories. Brands that successfully integrate themselves within these traditions – or develop their own – build salience year after year. Since Starbucks introduced its annual holiday cup designs in 1997, they’ve become an essential part of the holiday season for thousands.

Each winter brings a new design, and with it a new opportunity to collect, critique and – above all – share. Starbucks’ holiday cups have become such an essential part of consumers’ festive experience that the brand has found itself subject to the ire of consumers when designs fail to meet their expectations.

4. Don’t lose sight of holidays present

While appealing to the swell of holiday feelings is a tried-and-true approach, brands are also enjoying success with ads that touch on the more comic sides of the season. In 2018, KFC promoted their fried chicken with a good-natured jab at traditional turkey dinners.

The often-dry bird many of us tolerate only once a year was contrasted with juicy chicken appreciated year-round. The undercurrent of holiday nostalgia persists (family gatherings around the dinner table) but is given a fresh twist by the acknowledgment of a widely-accepted “secret.”

5. How does your brand express holiday spirit?

REI’s #OptOutside campaign puts this concept into practice by urging consumers to enjoy the outdoors on Black Friday, instead of jostling for the newest bit of camping gear. In what has now become a holiday tradition, REI closes its retail locations and reminds consumers through social media that there are alternatives to a day spent in holiday traffic. Participants can share photos of their experience on a specially-designed platform, adding to the sense of festive cheer.

By aligning their messaging with its brand image, REI authentically reinforces the brand’s mission, integrating it seamlessly into consumer’s holiday experience. They’ve also started a meaningful dialogue about the season’s less-cheery side, giving their audience the tools necessary to generate buzz. Being relevant, after all, requires more than taking a stance on current issues. Ultimately though, the holidays are all about tradition, not innovation, and the #OptOutside campaign’s greatest strength lies in its establishment of a new one: gearing up for the holidays with an excursion into the great outdoors.

Fitting into consumers’ holiday stories

The holiday shopping period is fraught with risk for brands as the frenzy provides fertile ground for marketers and retailers to hijack consumer intent at the last minute. Smart marketers and their agencies steel their defenses all year long, entering the battlefield with as much brand desire in the bank as possible, while also taking advantage of the emotive holiday spirit with captivating communications.

More about retail for the winter holidays

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Peter Minnium is president of Ipsos US, where he leads the US team in helping companies measure and amplify how media, brands, and consumers connect through compelling content and great communications. Prior to his switch to market research, Peter was Head of Brand Initiatives at the IAB focused on addressing the under-representation of creative brand advertising online.


Netflix logo guideline

(Image credit: Kat Michaela)

Creating a successful brand involves more work than just coming up with a snazzy logo or a memorable slogan then calling it a day. It’s all about communicating the essence of the company at every touchpoint as effectively as possible. Big companies put a lot of time and effort into this, just check out some of the meticulous design style guides behind some of the most famous brands.

However giant companies can also be guilty of over-egging their brand guidelines as well. Some great examples of these over the top and frankly bonkers design specifications were recently shared on Twitter by software engineer Kat Michaela.

These include notes on the gravitational pull of the Pepsi logo, advice that the Netflix logo isn’t to be bitten or digested, and the bizarre claim that the Twitter logo isn’t a bird. You couldn’t make it up.

one of my favorite things is checking out the absolute bullshit some designers came up with for some Giant Company’s brand guidelines 28, 2019

In the tweet which kicked off her thread, Michaela says that “checking out the absolute bullshit some designers came up with for some Giant Company’s brand guidelines” is one of her favourite things, and it looks like she isn’t alone.

Before long Twitter users were commenting with their reactions and the strange feedback they’ve heard over the years. This includes such gems as @ianto_scorpius’s story about when he was asked to use specific Pantone colours but the client refused to provide the codes, and the time @HesNotTheStig was forbidden from using cats or larvae in association with the Caterpillar brand.

Our favourite detail from this absurd thread though is the comparison drawn between the shape of the Pepsi logo and the Earth’s magnetic fields. It’s so idiotic and self-important that it even sparked an online hoax debate when it was originally unveiled.

branding guidelines pepsi

(Image credit: Pepsi)

But despite this madness, other Twitter users were quick to point out that these micro-managing guidelines are actually good design practice. While they might seem a little pedantic, @FoxxieAngel says they make sense: “I often have to warn my clients that their logos are not improved with lens flares, emboss looks and gradient overlays.”

Meanwhile @joar_lj comments: “The Pepsi one is famously insane, but as a graphic designer, uh, most of this stuff actually makes sense – don’t animate the logo, don’t put it in a box etc, its standard stuff. It’s a visual identity, something that every org larger than a corner store uses.”

And in defence of designers, lots of people highlighted the fact that it’s often marketing and advertising teams who make these puzzling demands, not the creatives themselves.

So while these brand guidelines might seem laughably crazy to designers, perhaps they’re saving other departments from headaches in the long run. Either way, we still can’t take Pepsi seriously when it says “emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity”.

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Last year, Yotpo found that 90% of consumers surveyed considered themselves brand loyal, in contrast to the conventional thinking that loyalty was dead. That number hasn’t changed, according to this year’s survey of 2,100 U.S. adults; 89.1% of consumers said they were brand loyal, with 25% saying they were more loyal than last year.

‘I tend to buy from the same brand.’ The survey asked respondents “what does being brand loyal mean to you?” The top response was “I tend to buy from the same brand” (67%). That was followed by “I love the brand” (39.5%) and “I buy from the brand despite cheaper competitors” (37.7%). However, the phrase “I tend to buy from the same brand” suggests softness and that loyalty for many people is a function of inertia.

In response to the question “How many times do you purchase from the same company before you’d consider yourself loyal?” roughly 87% of respondents said at least three times. Of that group, 36.4% said that it took at least five purchases for them to consider themselves brand loyal. Those numbers are quite similar to last year’s survey.

Customer service comes in third. The top drivers of brand loyalty were:

  • Product — 78%
  • Price — 63%
  • Customer service — 26%
  • Loyalty program — 22%
  • Shopping experience — 17%
  • Connection to a charity or cause — 9%
  • Ads/marketing — 4%
  • Other — 2%

Customer service was important but not as important as one might have thought, although the 26% figure is effectively an increase from the 7% last year who cited “above and beyond” customer service as their primary loyalty driver.

Loyal customers still resist marketing objectives. What will these loyal customers do for the brands they like? The answer is several things, although they resist common marketing objectives such as signing up for emails, following on social media or submitting reviews:

  • Join their loyalty program – 59%
  • Refer the brand to others – 59%
  • Spend more on products even with cheaper options elsewhere – 36%
  • Take a survey – 32%
  • Shop in their physical store – 27%
  • Sign up for emails, newsletters, physical mail – 19%
  • Participate in a contest or promotion – 18%
  • Submit a review, upload a photo or video – 18%
  • Follow and engage with the brand on social media – 10%
  • Attend their events – 5%
  • None of the above – 2%

Why we should care. There were other findings in the research, but these are the most noteworthy. Essentially, brand loyalty is alive but it may be mostly a function of finding a product that’s “good enough” and sticking with it out of inertia. Clearly, marketers that want true loyalty will need to do more.

One might be tempted to read this study and conclude service doesn’t really matter. While it’s not entirely clear from the survey, I suspect that those who are truly loyal (buy from brand despite cheaper options, love the brand) would cite service to a higher degree than the general respondent pool.

Finally, it was also interesting that more people were willing to participate in a survey than sign up for email or follow the brand on social media.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


Imagine a seesaw with a flamingo on one side and a grizzly bear on another. How would you ever stabilize them? That is how most digital marketers feel when they ask me to help balance out business-first decisions and brand safety. What does that mean? Simply put, it’s the natural and growing conflict between the need to increase profits or market share and ensuring that marketing and sales efforts don’t negatively impact the positive attitudes of prospects and customers toward the organization. Simpler yet, it’s the balancing of opportunity and risk in digital marketing and sales.

Balancing out these strategic and operational issues can appear complicated at first glance. But the uncomplicated place where I tend to start with anyone who calls me is understanding the specific growth or market challenges facing the organization and defining digital policy and practices around sentiment analysis.

Brands from any and all verticals use sentiment analysis to understand prospect and customer reactions, opinions and behaviors toward products or services. But while the analysis methodology has long been used to measure the latest social media campaign, it can be used as the foundation for your broader marketing and sales efforts, telling you exactly how far and fast you can push your efforts without damaging your brand. So why isn’t everyone jumping on the bandwagon? Should you take the leap? Let’s examine some of the intricacies of sentiment analysis to ensure you can proceed with eyes wide open.

The challenge of quantifying reputational risk 

It is straightforward to tie a one-off large-scale event to brand and reputation impact. Consider a news story about a data breach or an accessibility lawsuit impacting your organization. Obviously we can calculate the loss of revenue, cost of recovery, and potential legal liability. Weighed against the cost of mitigation, we can derive a clear understanding of the risk/benefit scenario and make a business decision on the most logical path forward. What is much harder to measure is how broadly and for how long the news stories will continue to cause trust issues and ill will with prospects and customers.

What I’ve found to be successful is to gather all (or as many as possible) mentions of the organization across any and all channels (e.g., news, social media, TV, radio, customer service recordings, customer surveys, user purchasing history, etc.) and use a text and data analytics engine to measure sentiment. That means identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text in order to determine if the attitude toward the organization is positive, negative, or neutral. By tracking organizational reputation (and brand) in key demographics and markets, we can develop a solid set of sentiments that can help us track risks that impact hard-to-measure things such as influence, trust, and leadership. This approach allows us to quantify a reputational baseline. Against that baseline, we can measure trends over time or at specific events, and leverage an agile methodology to test how aggressively we can market and sell before we start to get close to a decline in that influence, trust, and leadership area. In other words, we can tell how far we can push before we encounter brand risk and start to negatively impact our reputation.

Getting the full picture

Creating a picture of your organization’s reputational risk goes beyond understanding how the entity is viewed in the marketplace. It requires the identification and quantification of the reputation of your products as well as those of your suppliers. That means understanding your entire digital ecosystem and measuring its brand risk in the context of your organization, products, and services. For example, I have a client that was involved in the AWS data exposure incident earlier this year. While the AWS relationship with my client wasn’t known well publicly, it still had a (marginal) negative impact on the brand.

Each vendor, agency or independent consultant is part of your ecosystem. So are boards of directors (past and present), brand ambassadors and influencers, and anyone else who touches your brand. You should map them all out and, based on a matrix of prioritization, determine who should be included in your full-picture analysis. After all, there is risk associated with each entity. Conversely, if any one of those entities is seen favorably, you can also benefit from such awareness and sentiment.

Managing and capitalizing on event-based risks 

Let’s continue this discussion with my AWS example. Understanding that there was a small, but real, brand risk, we decided with leadership to proactively reach out to users, and as news of the AWS breach began to spread, users were already informed of what the organization knows about the incident and what it was doing to ensure consumer data was protected. The reputational risk measurement indicated that we managed to contain the negative rollback on the organization’s brand. It also indicated to executives the level of effort to put into communicating around AWS and the incident in the future. Lastly, it allowed us to collectively understand what kind of risk we might have with AWS going forward and whether there was a return on investment (ROI) to be gained by moving to a different hosting environment.

The same approach that we used to determine the AWS incident risk and mitigate against it, devising a good response plan, could be used in a number of other scenarios to understand marketing and sales options for your organization. Consider for a moment the latest YouTube advertising scandal. Your organization could perform the same analysis used for the AWS sentiment analysis to understand impact on competitors and other operating companies advertising on YouTube. Based on the negative brand impact (if any), you could better understand the type of risk your business could incur and proceed to use YouTube advertising or, conversely, stop advertising in that channel.

Will you keep your finger on the pulse of brand safety?

By using sentiment analysis, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your brand safety risk and dial your digital marketing and sales activity up or down as appropriate, thereby delivering on the business’ bottom line. You can also minimize your exposure to brand-damaging events. With a measured approach, you can best balance your opportunity and risk and develop a better approach to marketing and sales. Moreover, you can develop the type of digital policies that will unleash creativity and innovation in the organization while keeping the business safe.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Kristina is a digital policy innovator. For over two decades, she has worked with some of the most high-profile companies in the world and has helped them see policies as opportunities to free the organization from uncertainty, risk and internal confusion. Kristina has a BA in international studies and an MBA in international business from the Dominican University of California and is certified as both a change management practitioner (APMG International) and a project management professional (Project Management Institute). Her book, The Power of Digital Policy, was published in 2019.


Deutsche Telekom is perhaps best known around the world as the telco behind mobile carrier T-Mobile, but today it’s making an appearance in a lesser-known yet also regular role: trademark troll.

The company’s German lawyers have sent a letter to Lemonade, the AI-based insurance startup headquartered in New York, demanding it cease using magenta — a color that appears across Lemonade’s logo and marketing material — globally. DT also filed for and received an injunction on Lemonade operating in Germany — a block Lemonade has temporarily worked around by dropping magenta for the moment in the country (it’s using red instead).

But that is not the whole story: Lemonade, which said the letter came in the wake of its launch in Germany this summer, said that it will put up a fight. Today, it filed a motion with EUIPO (the European intellectual property office) to invalidate DT’s claim to a trademark on magenta; and it has further petitioned the German trademark office to remove DT’s claim to holding a right on magenta in the insurance sector.

“We thought this seemed like a massive over-reach,” Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade’s CEO and co-ounder, said in an interview. “Then when we started digging, we found that they’ve been doing this across a number of countries, covering big companies to the smallest businesses. It’s mind boggling. We are in insurance.”

This fact does not matter to DT, which says the color mark is associated with its brand “beyond the classic industry environment.”

“Deutsche Telekom has asked the insurance company Lemonade to stop using the color magenta,” a spokesperson said in response to our request for comment. “Like the company logo ‘T’ and other brand elements, the color magenta is registered as a Deutsche Telekom brand. Deutsche Telekom’s brands make a significant contribution to the company’s success. Deutsche Telekom is clearly recognized and remembered by the color magenta — beyond the classic industry environment. Deutsche Telekom respects everyone’s trademark rights, but expects others to do the same. In Germany, the competent court issued an injunction against Lemonade because it considered the use of magenta to be a violation of Deutsche Telekom’s color mark. Please understand that Deutsche Telekom will not comment further on this case until a final decision has been made.”

To be sure, this is far from Deutsche Telekom’s first efforts to defend its pink hue. The company has gone after carriers like AT&T and Telia, our sister publication Engadget (before the days when it was owned by another DT competitor, Verizon), Apple device management specialist dataJar, invoice services provider Compello and a now-defunct smartwatch maker.

The track record so far should give Lemonade some hope. In some cases — such as Telia’s and dataJar’s — DT lost and magenta has run free. In others, DT has had the upper hand, and has danced a little in celebration:

Who’s the bully now, John?

“We feel like we’re a character in a Disney movie, fighting a baddie,” Schreiber said.

But as with DT, sometimes Goliath is actually David, depending on who is punching up or down. That is to say, Lemonade is not a stranger to filing suits to defend its product and brand, either. The company was in a brief dispute with WeFox over IP infringement — a legal fight that appears now to be getting settled.

Lemonade’s CEO said that although DT’s letter specifies that the startup stop using magenta globally, he thinks that the carrier waited until the startup entered Germany to take legal action because it put the startup squarely in German jurisdiction, where DT might get treated more favorably because of its ubiquity. (Indeed, the cases where it has lost have all been outside its home market.)

Schreiber defended the use of magenta for Lemonade — incidentally, not typically a drink that is magenta — as part of its bigger ethos.

“We’ve been pink since launch because we wanted to give a sense of being trusting and fun and approachable. It’s a very prominent part of our brand, ” he said. “The backdrop to that is the monochrome of our industry, insurance.”

The company based more than just its logo on the color. Since being founded in 2015, all of its promotional materials have featured magenta, and its social media campaigns on services like Instagram are built around the color, with various household and other everyday objects dipped into magenta paint. (This is a reference to Lemonade’s insurance services: it offers home owner and rental insurance services that cover all your belongings.)

Lemonade’s Instagram effort in particular has gone somewhat viral: the company says that its posts have collectively been viewed 18 million times. Lemonade will now try to turn up the volume on that, with a new effort to defend its use of magenta with a #freethepink hashtag. As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons…

T-Mobile’s specific form of magenta that it has trademarked for its brand is RAL 4010, a color that is not exactly the same as Lemonade’s, Schreiber said. T-Mobile has been going after a number of companies using colors close to this as well, a process Lemonade is now charting as it gears up for its legal fight:

But one issue that might make this case not so clear cut is that Deutsche Telekom, it seems, actually does dabble in insurance. It offers insurance on digital services like cybersecurity, and it sells policies to cover your tech gadgets, and specifically devices — carriers, of course, being major resellers of smartphones, tablets and other electronics that are used over their networks. It’s not the same as household insurance, but highlights an area where the two might move closer together over time.

For Lemonade, growth is something that is likely to keep happening. Schreiber said that while the company will not disclose any plans today, it will be expanding into more regions within the U.S. and Europe, where it is now active, as well as further afield, and it is also considering entering into more product lines beyond home owners’ and home renters’ insurance.

Lemonade earlier this year raised $300 million on a $2 billion valuation led by the SoftBank Group — most of which, Schreiber said, is still in the bank.

Meanwhile, a small note on PitchBook dated October 28 noted that the company is now starting to raise a further $500 million. If this is true, it’s very early days. “News to me,” Schreiber said with surprise when I asked him about it.

Updated with comment from Deutsche Telekom.


Creating a progression of short videos with a carefully targeted campaign on YouTube can set up your brand’s success on the platform.

Every brand has a story to tell. But with the average attention span of adults being eight seconds (according to a study by Microsoft), how do you capture that user in the right moment with the right message?

Effective content marketing has become crucial because of this staggering statistic. As digital advances, content marketing tactics now encapsulate display and video strategies in order to keep a user engaged.

What is YouTube ad sequencing?

YouTube ad sequencing campaigns made its debut in the second half of 2018. However, I am convinced that not enough brands are taking advantage of this tactic.

Video ad sequencing is being able to show users a series of videos in a specific order that you define. The best uses for this type of campaign include:

  • Building interest
  • Reinforce messaging
  • Create a unifying theme for your brand

What goes into a video sequencing campaign?

There are many settings to take into consideration while setting up your campaign for success. The first and most crucial piece is to select the right target audience to view in your first video in the sequence. If you’re not targeting your ideal audience, you will be wasting valuable marketing dollars on users that don’t fit into your key demographics. You’re able to use audiences and demographics within Google Ads, but not keywords, placements or topic targeting. Some of the audience options you can choose from include:

  • In-Market
  • Detailed Demographics
  • Life Events
  • Similar Audiences
  • Custom Intent

The next pieces you’ll need to set up include:

  • Bid Strategy
  • Logical sequencing

There are only two bid strategies allowed in YouTube ad sequencing: Target CPM and Maximum CPV. The bidding strategy you choose will be dependent on the type of ad format chosen for your campaigns.

Lastly – make sure to pick logical sequencing for your videos. Meaning, if your goal is to tell your brand’s story through a defined sequence of videos, make sure placing those videos in an order that would make sense for the user. Pro tip – I tend to start with a longer video on the first step and narrow users out based on “views” of the first video. From there, I tend to see more engagement throughout the rest of the video sequence.

Want to learn more? Please join me at my SMX East session about YouTube Ad Sequence campaigns where I’ll cover the topic more in-depth on Nov. 13.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Brooke Osmundson serves as the associate director of paid search at NordicClick Interactive with over six years’ experience. She helps her clients grow their digital strategies using tactics from paid search, social media and programmatic marketing. With her experience and passion in analytics, strategic planning and everything digital, she helps create relevant customer experience strategies at every stage of the user funnel. Brooke has been featured in the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, spoke at SMX West and PubCon Pro, contributed to NordicClick’s 2018 US Search Award for “Best Use of Video in a Search Campaign” and most recently had her client strategy shortlisted for two 2019 US Search Awards. When not working, you can find her enjoying a round of golf, catching up on the latest episodes of Law & Order SVU or completing never-ending house renovations.


We’ve heard a lot about the polarization of politics and the media over the past few years. And some households might have their preference of the top three cable news channels—Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. But one broadcaster has more reach than any of them: PBS.

According to a September 2018 Nielsen report, 215 million people, or 83% of all U.S. television households, watch PBS via “traditional television.” The network reaches 89% of non-internet homes, 82% of lower-income homes, and 78% of rural homes. Its demographics reflect that of the overall U.S. population in regard to race, ethnicity, education, income, and geography. And PBS was ranked the most trusted institution among contenders that included courts of law, cable and broadcast tv, newspapers, digital media, and more, according to a 2019 report by Marketing & Research Resources.

[Image: courtesy PBS]

Though the broadcaster had near universality in American homes, it was in need of a rebrand as it continued to expand into the digital world. That became the design challenge for Connie Birdsall, global creative director, and Bogdan Geana, partner, of creative consultancy Lippincott, who developed the new brand identity for PBS, along with Shelby Hawker, senior partner, and Emily Guilmette, partner. How do you develop a brand that stands out and still appeals to everyone?

While Birdsall felt the logo developed by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv in 2009 “had a lot of strength,” the mark—and the system surrounding it—was ready for a 2019 reevaluation. For Don Wilcox, vice president of multiplatform marketing and content at PBS, the previous look had a “broadcast sensibility” that didn’t translate well across platforms. “We are working in a multiplatform world and we need to change our practice. It’s incredibly important for us to show up consistently and legibly, whether on a handheld device or flat screen.”

[Image: courtesy PBS]

So Birdsall and her team went back to the mark to determine how to adapt it for the digital age. When looking at the new logo itself, you’ll notice only slight alterations. But they made all the difference when it comes to brand cohesion and direction.

The team wanted the mark to be quickly identifiable as users switch across platforms. So they first turned to adopting a consistent, proprietary color, which had to convey PBS’s standing as a “thoughtful and thought-provoking media leader,” and the trust it has established with viewers. The team landed on a vibrant, brighter blue to differentiate from any unwanted political affiliation (including the Democratic Party), and that brought a bit of the unexpected. This is a rebrand, after all.

To bring the “flip-phone brand” into an “iPhone world,” as Wilcox describes it, Birdsall and her team made changes to the design of the mark itself as well: They simplified and enlarged the typography, scaled up the size of the head inside the circle, then scaled the type to equal the height of the head, so the two design elements read as one unit together. There was another small change, too: The team tilted the nose up slightly, so the head gazes upward, toward a “beacon of thoughtfulness.”

Clean design was also important in creating a sense of universality, even when PBS programming, like its audience, is diverse. “By adopting that flat design and a less invasive design approach to how we make our brand seem, it lets the content do the heavy lifting,” says Wilcox. Whether a viewer is engaging with science, news, or drama, content is at the forefront; the branding was there as a buttress to storytelling. A “crisp, clear, and consistent” typeface met their objectives for legibility across platforms. All together, these new design principles create a cohesive system that’s easy for local member stations to use. “For the PBS brand to flourish, we need to have the brand appear as often as possible,” says Birdsall.

But PBS can’t mandate changes to member stations like a traditional broadcast network, and according to Wilcox, its 330 local stations don’t have to use the logo in the presentation of their station identity. So, adoption of the new brand identity became, as Wilcox describes it, “a process of attraction.” PBS consulted extensively with stations across the country in regard to the direction a new brand system would take. According to Wilcox, when they synthesized all that information, the stations saw the same opportunities as his team: They need to do “a better job of reflecting the PBS that already exists. We’re not changing who we are.” According to Wilcox, around 70% of PBS’s more than 330 member stations have agreed to adopt the new system. The ease of use and simplicity of design was a key factor.

“We want to be there for every American, regardless of background, age, or geography—whether you’re getting us with rabbit ears in the Blue Ridge Mountains or an optic connection in Austin,” says Wilcox. The aim, as has ever been the aim of PBS, is universal appeal. The new challenge for the identity and the broadcaster will be meeting viewers where they are appearing more and more: in the digital realm. And PBS is focusing on digital—the PBS Digital Studios network of shows now has 20 million subscribers—and it will continue to do so as broadcast continues its demise. PBS hopes the continuity of the new brand identity will help it meet the needs of future viewership. Just like the face of the new brand mark, it, too, is forward-looking.