In the early autumn each year all Fjordians travel to the same location for our annual company off-site, an important tradition that we call “Fjord Equinox”. This year we went to Sicily.
I’m sitting there in the bus, travelling towards our home for the next few days – an old tuna factory that’s been transformed into a hotel and resort. Suddenly I see an illuminated fire-breathing beast outside the bus. The beast is the logo of Agip, one of Italy’s largest petrol station chains.
The colours, symbolism, and outrageousness of the design mesmerise me.
Corporate identity blandness
In our globalised economy, many large corporations tweak and evolve their visual identities in order to appeal to – or at least not insult – people across cultures and demographics. Corporate identities therefore have a tendency towards the abstract rather than specific, and often both the company name and the visual identity are relatively generic and – let’s face it – bland.
In some industries, the corporate identity is used as a tool to make the company’s core product or service more appreciated, or simply acceptable.
One example is the dominant agricultural giant Monsanto, widely accused of being a true force of evil. In the fight against a negative public image they have developed a corporate identity that looks cuddly and suitably “organic”. They also have a slogan that goes with it: “A sustainable agriculture company”. In their case the brand identity is used as one of many weapons in the effort to become more “politically correct”.
The danger of a logo that doesn’t align with behaviour
British Petroleum – BP – is one of the largest energy groups on the planet, and it offers another obvious example of a logo that’s trying to communicate positive values. More than 10 years ago BP redesigned their identity, and brought about the green “sunflower” logo that they’ve used since. It was a massive rebranding exercise, and clearly the visual identity is pointing towards sustainability and renewability.
However, as BP have since found out through the environmental catastrophe they caused in the Gulf, if your actions are not in harmony with the image you paint of yourself, there is likely to be a backlash. Digital and social media in particular have completely changed the rules of branding. You can’t rely on the effectiveness of a centrally created brand image that’s simply broadcasted to the public, using controlled channels. Your core services and your actions have to be aligned with your brand identity. Below is one example of how the BP logo has been used to make a statement about this disconnect between brand image and behaviour at BP.
To see how numerous people are having fun with the BP logo, simply do a Google image search for “BP logo”. The search results page is a bit of a brand and PR disaster for the company.
The outrageous Agip approach
In bright contrast to the general branding trend of the politically correct, the bland and the abstract, Agip’s logo stands out as a fresh and gutsy alternative.
Numerous other brands – regardless of industry – are gravitating towards flowers, butterflies and clouds. What does Agip offer us? A six-legged furry beast that roars with flames of fire. As if the imagery isn’t strong enough, it’s also been painted with the most aggressive combination of colours possible – yellow, red, and black.
I don’t know what Agip’s values are, or what branding strategy they have. But in the cynical and critical age of “Occupy”, their logo feels fresh, direct, and honest. The Agip identity might well be an old classic – I avoided the temptation to research Agip’s branding history – but it seems remarkably suitable for current times.
In a world over-saturated with marketing messages and brands, it’s increasingly difficult to catch the attention of people, and to connect with them.
When other brands flock towards earthy niceness, the aggressive Agip logo certainly stands out in the crowd. As the old marketing saying goes: ‘When everybody zigs, zag’. Agip are doing just that, and they made me notice them. I even wrote a blog post about their crazy beast!