.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Say it ain't so, Jack

According to the New York Times, if Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman and CEO of SBC and now AT&T, has his way, he will dump Jack, the Cingular Wireless brand’s orange spokeslogo after SBC’s takeover of BellSouth is complete. This is bigger than the sock monkey.

I worked at BBDO Atlanta (Cingular’s ad agency) in 2001, the year Jack was born. (Actually, he was conceived at VSA Partners.) I liked Jack for two reasons: 1) He was orange at a time when nobody was orange, and 2) He was blob-like and didn’t have a swoosh. To me, he was the brand identity wave of the future. And except for the blob part, I was right. Now everything cool is orange and swooshes have gone the way of Malcolm X caps.

Cingular focused on branding in its broadcast spots, leaving print media for retail ads. According to my friends at BBDO Atlanta, the launch campaign, with its tag line—“What Do You Have to Say?”—made Cingular a household name within two years, raising the brand awareness level to an incredible 80%. Cingular’s ubiquitous orange icon became one of the fastest growing and most recognizable symbols in the country.

Okay, brand awareness is not the same as brand equity. But is that a good reason to throw Jack out? I couldn’t find a $ estimate for Cingular’s brand value, but certainly, it has to be worth something. If I were a shareholder, I would question the wisdom of dumping such an important asset. At the very least, sell him.

I usually agree with Mr Roth's assessments, but this time I think the boss is right... Here's my gut message: Cingular is an amazing brand word, but if the orange blob was to be re-made today it would be MUCH bolder and probably less dimensional as well. With 8/10 recognition, I can imagine that Cingular deserves a fatter logo to match their public image.
(This came from my son Kris, who worked with me at BBDO)

"Right about the time we left BBDO (2002), the industry took off the branding gloves and began to battle exclusively on cool phones and low prices. Apparently, this was no place for a diplomat and brand ambassador like jack.
He lost his starring role in all manner of marketing--winding up on page 2 of creative briefs, buried in a list of mandatory requirements.

In short, they killed his character off years ago...they just forgot to fire him.
He won't be missed after the merger....he hasn't been missed in over 3 years."
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