DC’s New Logo: Through a Glass Not So Snarkly

A guest column I penned for my friends at Bonfire Agency. Read the original post here: 

After only four years, DC Comics has changed its iconic logo. Or, more accurately, changed it back.

Even if you’ve never read a comic book (we’ve been told that a few of you exist, though I’ve never met one myself), chances are you’ve seen the DC logo if you’ve caught an episode of Gotham on Fox or The Flash, Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow on The CW.

Labeled by some as “the peel” for its stylized letter D graphically peeling away to reveal a letter C underneath, the logo was not a fan favorite – including this fan.

My preference is the logo that topped the DC comics I read as a kid – Milton Glaser’s iconic 1976 “DC Bullet” with its blue, star-spangled bull’s-eye encircling a rising D and C. The mere sight of it was enough to send my 10-year-old heart racing in anticipation of the heroic wonders waiting for me past the cover. Glaser’s bullet reigned for 30 years and, unlike the “peel,” had real history.

From its origin in 1940, the DC logo’s classic shape and structure remained recognizable, evolving and changing only slightly through the decades, serving as a steadfast emblem of the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and so many others.

All that changed when, in 2012, history was peeled away – literally. A few years earllier, the broader design community endured the graphic invasion of the peeling trompe l’oeil sticker (French for “deceive the eye”).  Used mostly in the packaging industry, these design motifs were employed as holding devices for copy such as “new & improved” and “now with 50% more fiber” – not the kind of phrases you’d likely associate with the world’s greatest super-heroes.  Far from a brand design evolution that moved forward with at least a modicum of awareness of what had come before, a design “revolution” was underway and it wasn’t pretty.
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Evolutionary vs Revolutionary Design

When dealing with iconic brands (and whether one wants to admit it or not, DC is just such a brand), it’s important to practice Evolutionary rather than Revolutionary design. Designers must seek out that perfect balance between making small graphic updates that will keep a brand mark looking fresh, and protecting timeless, legacy-defining elements that ensure your brand is able to tell one continuous graphic story. Revolutionary design, by its nature, overwrites a brand’s history, killing any authenticity it had earned with its adherents.  And those adherents – fans – are any brand’s most passionate and influential evangelists.

In re-embracing, rather than rejecting, DC’s 80-year history, the new DC logo design picks up where Glaser’s bullet left off, summoning brand-defining elements from the past, honoring those iconic DC symbols which came before, yet still moving forward.  Some might see it as coming right at you.

In an Instagram post, DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee gave some insight into the design nuances that make up the logo’s D and C letterforms, stating that “the nooks and angles are meant to evoke the Superman ‘S,’ the Wonder Woman ‘WW’ emblem and the Bat logo.”

It seems that not only historic cues are baked into this incarnation, but the essences of the heroes themselves.

So, it’s fitting then that this newest logo makes its comics debut on the cover of DC Universe Rebirth Special #1, a symbol rooted in history with an eye on the future.  Here’s hoping it makes its mark.
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Keith Manzella has graced Bonfire with his strategic design sensibilities, creative skills and pop culture passions since the agency’s founding.  A veteran of Marvel’s Corporate Marketing & Promotions team, he currently serves as VP, Group Creative Director at Eastwest Marketing Group in New York. Visit http://www.KeithManzella.com

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Package Design for the Zombie Shopper.

Something scary has happened to us, not only as a society, but as shoppers. We’re…changing.

Auto-play videos dominate our Facebook scroll. Our kids communicate with Emojis. Short form videos are replacing TV as the go to entertainment choice of Millennials. More and more we are shunning words and seeking out images as our preferred method of communication. This yearning for visual, effortless messaging doesn’t end on our phone and tablet screens. We want it, and expect it, in every aspect of our lives, even in-store. This communication expectation has created what I call…THE ZOMBIE SHOPPER!

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Shoppers are already hurried. Distracted. Tired. Shoppers don’t have time to read about which brand is better. Even three or four words are too much. Today’s shoppers are kinda’ going through the store like a zombie. Responding to, and preferring, quick visual stimuli. So to get Zombie Shopper’s attention and telegraph our product’s points of difference and reasons to believe to her, it must be done visually, not with words. Short form video? Heck, we need short form packaging! Show me, don’t tell me. That’s the new communication rule for the Zombie Shopper.

What are the best package design practices when communicating to the Zombie Shopper? I’ve narrowed down 3 that are no brainers. Get it? Brains? Zombies? Moving right along…

1) Simplify to Sell!
Zombie Shoppers gravitate toward packaging that is simple and iconic. Brands that limit copy and design elements position themselves to appeal to shoppers who just want to find, grab and go. It’s so tempting to add one more claim or symbol—but this practice can only bring overwhelming disorder to the eye, turning your package into white noise for the consumer who’s scanning the shelf. Zombie Shoppers want to find what they’re looking for and find it fast.

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Is anyone going to read these claims? CAN anyone read these?! Zombie Shoppers can’t. They just don’t have the time or desire.

Simple can be complicated! Simplifying packaging to give it a clean look is easy, but making it simple and still communicate effectively is hard.

To simplify effectively, package designers must focus on the visual communications that truly matter to the brand and to the consumer, eliminating everything else as unnecessary. Here are some awesome examples of how less is more…

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Now that we’ve learned that “simple sells” overall, let’s dive in a bit deeper and talk about simplifying what we’re saying on our packaging.

2) Deliver only one message.
When asked what the most common marketing mistake companies make in their branding was, Stuart Chapman, Associate Director of the design research agency The Big Picture, had this to say: “— It’s expecting packaging to do too much. When budgets are limited it’s tempting to try to make packaging the all-singing and all-dancing star of the show, shouldering the entire responsibility for the brand’s comms. This is often too much strain for one touch-point. Perhaps counter-intuitively, when budgets are limited it’s better for designs to be very single-minded to help one clear message cut through.”

And packaging communication expert Lars Wallentin said in his blog, “Simplify your message in order to amplify your message. Often what the product does and stands for is getting lost through complicated communication, when in fact simplicity is the key.” 

Don’t create your own noise.” You know who said that one? Me! Keith Manzella. One message sticks. Two messages become noise. As package designers, we have enough on-shelf noise we must cut through. Why on Earth create our own noise on our own packages?

Look at these examples of packages trying to communicate too much.

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Too many messages! Not organized. No hierarchy of communication. This cereal box example has way too many messages.

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Why spell out “Two Scoops?” Sunny is doing a fine job visually communicating this point of difference without using a single word.

“Change Information to Communication to stimulate and include the consumer.” -Lars Wallentin

What does Lars mean by that? Look at how well Cottonelle visually communicates their softness claim. Does it resonate as well when communicated as information rather than visual communication?

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3) Communicate Visually. Talk to the Eyes to Get the Buys!

Consumers don’t like to read. Period. So why do we keep putting words on our packaging? Visual communication is natural! It’s how our brains process information. Reading’s not natural. We taught ourselves to read. The first written languages were pictures! Our brains are wired to see and translate visual information. This is why short form videos and emojis have caught on and flourished so fast. It feels natural and easy to our Zombie Shopper brains.

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Visual Communication is the strongest communication there is. Strong visual design assets stick with consumers longer than verbal communication. Visual over Verbal! That should always be the rule.

Look at the product usage story Tostitos Scoops tells on pack visually. Conversely, Frito’s Scoops packaging provides no clues to the benefit their new chip shape provides.

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And look at the story Lay’s tells about its product with one brilliant image! “Made from real potatoes! It’s natural! It’s healthy!” So much is implied about the product in this one image without saying a word.

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Does this do the same?

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Here’s a visual I created for Post Food’s Cocoa Pebbles brand helping to position it as THE chocolatey cereal choice for kids. All chocolate cereals turn milk chocolatey to some degree, but how to position Cocoa Pebbles as creating the most chocolatey milk? Spelling out this claim with words was employed on the package face but I wanted to do something more powerful in addition.

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By creating an ownable visual articulation of the product experience promise, our unique story could be told visually. Bamm-Bamm is shown drinking chocolate milk through a straw right out of the bowl, creating an ownable visual that instantly telegraphs the unique taste experience to consumers, “Tastes Like an Xtreme Milkshake!”

The takeaways:

1. Simplify to Sell: Simpler package graphics bring us closer to being an iconic brand which will stand apart on shelf and be instantly recognized by consumers looking to find, grab and go.

2. Deliver ONLY One Message: One message is the most that a consumer can take in at shelf. Make it short, persuasive, ownable and easy to remember. Preferably with no words.

3. Tell Your Story Visually: A picture is literally worth a thousand words when it comes to instantly conveying an idea, POD or RTB on shelf to the Zombie Shopper.

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Keith Manzella is a Creative Director specializing in connecting with consumers in-store. To see more great packaging ideas, visit http://www.KeithManzella.com

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Post Pebbles Serves Up a Blast of Awesome!

With no new Flintstones entertainment on air, Post was faced with the challenge of keeping the Pebbles cereal brand relatable to today’s kids. I needed to create a fresh brand positioning that would resonate with kids, stay true to the brand’s founding equities yet stand apart from anything Bedrockian.

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Celebrating the product’s core taste and color equities, a campaign was created which positioned the cereal as star rather than the Flintstones. Visual articulations of the brand’s promise of providing an over-the-top taste experience were developed.

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In “A Blast of Awesome!” relatable kids are featured in aspirational scenarios where fun is taken to ridiculous extremes, blasting the ordinary into extraordinary awesome taste adventures.

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For more great brand building ideas, visit http://www.keithmanzella.com

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Hungry-Man Laughs Along with the Millennial Male

When did it happen? When did a salad become a meal? When did a coffee become a double foam, non-fat, mocha latte? It’s time to answer the call of your stomach and eat what you love. It’s time to eat like a man. Hungry-Man wanted to reach out to a young generation of males and let them know that moving out of their parents’ house and living on a budget didn’t mean having to forego a hearty, home-style meal. But how to speak to this fickle, hard to reach audience? By giving them something to laugh about.

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These days, humorous video is the smartest medium to start a conversation with millennial males. For this generation, comedy is what’s driving their culture. While music drove our father’s generation, sharable funny media is driving this generation of young male consumers. Humorous content in the form of Twitter and Facebook posts, along with short form video created in partnership with Poptent, were activated across all social channels, connecting with millennial males, and joining in where they were already having conversations.

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The positioning line, “Eat Like a Man!” unified the brand’s message across all mediums, acting as both a rallying cry and call to action.

On Facebook, Hungry-Man connected with fans through humorous posts, which laddered back to the “Eat Like a Man!” positioning, raising the page’s likes from 3k to over 127k.

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On Twitter, Hungry-Man joined the conversation by personally answering guys who mentioned they were hungry in their tweets.

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A brand specific YouTube channel as well as Vine account showcased humorous videos featuring the “Eat Like a Man!” tagline, with the most popular video receiving just under 200k views to date.

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The Eat Like A Man messaging as well as Hungry-Man product was seamlessly integrated into target relevant media, like Newtwork A’s show “Tuerck’d” starring Ryan Tuerck, via Bedrocket Media.

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A blogger outreach program as well as pre-roll advertising purchased on target relevant sites delivered incentive to try coupons.

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In-store “Eat Like A Man” POS supported.

For more great ideas, visit http://www.keithmanzella.com

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Team Pebbles Leverages World Cup Excitement!

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 Two professional American soccer players join Team Fruity and Team Cocoa as part of a friendly competition between Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles to see which cereal is more popular among fans! American soccer player Omar Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Galaxy will join Team Captain, WWE Superstar John Cena, on Team Fruity. American Olympic gold medalist and forward of the Portland Thorns, Alex Morgan, will join professional basketball all-star and Team Captain Kyrie Irving on Team Cocoa.

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 “We are thrilled to add such great soccer talent to the Team Fruity and Team Cocoa rosters, especially as the sport continues to become more popular among kids and parents alike,” said Sue Fruzzetti-Reich, Senior Brand Manager at Post Foods, LLC. “Our team captains, John Cena and Kyrie Irving, have done a tremendous job leading their respective teams this year and drumming up team spirit among all Pebbles fans. We are looking forward to having Alex and Omar join the Team Pebbles campaign and rally support among their fans.” Since January, Pebbles fans of all ages have been asked to choose their allegiance to Team Fruity or Team Cocoa. Online, fans can share their support for their favorite Pebbles flavor by visiting http://www.TeamPebbles.com and downloading an interactive app encouraging fans to vote, take photos, and play minigames. By completing simple online challenges and sharing them through Instagram using their team’s hashtag (#TeamFruity or #TeamCocoa), fans become eligible to win prizes such as gift cards, iPads, or Alex Morgan and Omar Gonzalez signed merchandise.

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“Joining Team Fruity is a dream come true for a flavor-seeking fanatic like me,” said American soccer player Omar Gonzalez. “I’m prepared to go head-to-head with Alex and Team Cocoa with the hope of helping Team Fruity take the lead as the most well-liked Pebbles flavor – even if it means going into extra time!” Fans will be able to collect Fruity Pebbles boxes featuring Omar Gonzalez on store shelves. Additionally, Omar’s Fruity Pebbles boxes will feature limited edition Kickin’ KaBluey Green flakes. Cocoa Pebbles boxes featuring team member Alex Morgan will also be available in May. “As a lifelong soccer player, I understand the power of team spirit and am pumped to be joining Team Cocoa,” said American soccer player and Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan. “While Omar has some good moves on the field, we’ll see if Team Fruity can keep up with the chocolate-fueled fans of Team Cocoa.”

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Post Pebbles Makes Every Day An Adventure!

When Post asked Eastwest Marketing Group to come up with new activities for the back panels of Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles, we viewed the assignment as an opportunity to establish a fresh brand positioning for Pebbles as well as provide fun activities for kids. With no new Flintstones entertainment on air, we were faced with the challenge of keeping “Bedrock fun” relatable to kids. Those timeless equities had to be made relevant if box back activities featuring them were to remain engaging. Every Day’s An Adventure! The solution leveraged the idea of transformation. Kids were presented with the thought that starting their day off with Pebbles could transform the ordinary into an extraordinary adventure.

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Comic book style stories featured normal routines which were transformed into adventures with Pebbles as the catalyst. School buses became chocolatey wooly mammoths, and soccer nets transformed into fruity dinosaurs, making Bedrock fun relatable in kid’s lives today under the umbrella of adventure.

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Kids were charged with finding how many things transformed from the normal to the prehistoric among other fun activities.

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Look for these transformational designs on package backs of new Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles, as well as on http://www.KeithManzella.com.

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Changing Faces is Big News for Post!

Has John Cena wrestled Fred Flintstone off of Pebbles face panels? Yes, it’s true…but only for a limited time. Even though the graphic change to Pebbles face panels is temporary, the on-shelf impact and online buzz will certainly last a long while. To promote an instant win game where consumers can win a trip to Wrestlemania 30, Family Size boxes of Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles now feature wrestling’s biggest Pebbles fan, John Cena! Even the Family Size banner was transformed into a Cena-sized championship belt, further adding to the on-shelf excitement. The box also delivered its own Cena premiums in the form of cut-out mini character standees that are small in size but not on fun.

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Thanks to an aggressive PR campaign, the packages became immediate off-shelf stars, as the media buzzed about the face panel shake-up proving that when handled correctly, utilizing a catchy hook and the right PR, a simple graphics change can become really big news for a brand.

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See how Pebbles’ relationship with Cena started here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYg2jJ0BXRI

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