Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: LOCOG Error Was Ignoring the Public

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: LOCOG Error Was Ignoring the Public

Article excerpt

I have some sympathy for Wolff Olins; its Olympic logo is horrible, but it didn't deserve last week's evisceration.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the debacle must lie with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). It picked Wolff Olins from a shortlist of four agencies, and briefed it on the requirements of the identity. It was LOCOG's Olympic board, consisting of Tessa Jowell, Lord Coe, Lord Moynihan and Ken Livingstone, which approved the design Apparently, only Ken voiced his dislike for the 'toileting monkey', but was outvoted by his three peers.

Working on a big public job such as the London Olympics is a very different challenge from the usual corporate engagement. First, your client team is made up of politicians not executives. At the first sign of trouble, the people who selected the logo did not step into the breach and defend their decision. Instead, they disappeared into the shadows, leaving Wolff Olins, bound by a contractual vow of silence, to take a public beating and deflect the attention from them.

The real problem with London 2012, however, is that the client is actually us. The British public are ultimately paying for the Olympics and their sense of ownership has been heightened by LOCOG's constant positioning of it as 'everyone's Games'. If it really understood brand, it would have realised that giving pounds 400,000 to an elite London design agency and selecting the logo without public consultation runs completely counter to this populist positioning.

The big mistake wasn't hiring Wolff Olins, it was selecting a design firm in the first place. If there were a decent marketer at LOCOG, they would have looked at the unusually public nature of the brand and realised that the correct approach would be to run a national competition to design the 2012 logo.

This would have been consistent with the competitive ethos of the Olympics and the populist focus of the London Games. The public selection of the winning design would have boosted people's involvement and generated a huge amount of positive, on-message PR. Rather than having Michael Wolff pompously (and disastrously) defend his ex-agency by telling consumers not to trust their first impressions and labelling their criticism 'lazy', a contest would have produced a media-friendly story about an everyday member of the public capturing the mood of a nation. …

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