The SIG Column - 5 June

05 Jun 2007

The launch of the 2012 Olympics logo has met with a less than favourable response from a public reeling at the branding's attempt at speaking to the country's youth. Drew Barrand, head of media at, explains why initial reaction to a logo is not the yardstick of success for London 2012...

If the old motto of ‘any press is good press’ rings true then the London 2012 organising committee has surpassed itself this week.

Based purely on level of response, the launch of the new logo has prompted way more coverage than they would ever have dreamed of. Unfortunately for Lord Coe et al, most of the reaction has not exactly been a ringing endorsement of the new look.

In fact so vitriolic has the response been that online petitions have been drawn up to get the logo scrapped while web bloggers all over the country have been putting forward their own designs as an alternative.

At a cost of £400,000, the logo created by design agency Wolff Olins has been labelled with every derogatory insult under the sun from ‘national embarrassment’ and ‘absolutely pathetic’ to, somewhat more bizarrely, ‘the spawn of Bart and Lisa Simpson’.

The combination of bright colours and modern jagged edges were designed to appeal to the core youth audience at which London 2012 is aimed but for many it lacked any level of subtlety required to make it ‘cool’.

It was almost like you could see what they were going for but that the design team got carried away with making an impact as opposed to making something attractive on the eye.

There are some positives. The logo is designed to be eye-catching and I don’t think anyone can deny that it certainly makes an impact on the memory. Additionally, its flexibility will have pleased the sponsors who can adapt the logo to their own brand colours.

Despite these commercial advantages, the public’s response is a big thumbs down. Add into the mix the emergence that the accompanying promotional film could trigger epileptic fits and you have what amounts to a communications disaster.

But enough of the slagging off. Let’s get some perspective because, in the long-term, it won’t really matter whether you like it or not.

London 2012 won’t fail in its stated aims because people find the logo too gaudy. Kids won’t shy away from involvement in the Games because the branding isn’t trendy enough.

It’s a logo and a logo’s primary purpose is to remind you of what it represents. This viewpoint might not be the popular view in branding agencies up and down the country but, in my mind, it’s the only attribute that matters.

Look at some of the biggest selling companies in this country. How many people bow down in wonder at the design intricacies of the Marks & Spencer logo? Who quivers in delight at the branding on cans of Coca-Cola?

Ok…so maybe some work-obsessed designers might…but for the majority of us, the logo is almost inconsequential in the long-term because it’s the product inside that really engages with the consumer.

London 2012 will succeed through the marketing programmes and community projects it launches in the run-up to the Games and through its PR message, not whether the UK public thinks its logo is the very definition of cool.

If the London 2012 organisers create good feeling through initiatives such as these than all the logo need do is remind people of these programmes by doing its first and most important task. Representing that which it stands for.

You can quibble about the fact that, for many, it could look easier on the eye and you could even contend that a more universally accepted logo would have given the Games organisers a push start rather than stalling so dramatically, but in the end it won’t matter a jot if London 2012 gets its promotional message right. This week has been a missed opportunity but it won't bring down the house.

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