Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Branding: From A to Z

Going through my email updates from LinkedIn groups this morning, I found an interesting question posed by a fellow group member that led me into another thought/realization. He asked what everyone thought about the trend to truncate brands into a single letter these days.

He gave a link to an article discussing this and giving a few examples - it seemed the conversation led towards the trademarking and subsequent litigation over these letters, as there are only 26 of them. Basically, this could lead to a nightmare for any company that gets themselves involved with this. I do agree, and I commented accordingly, also pointing out that there will usually be little to no payoff from all of that effort. Unless a company has already achieved this level of recognition organically, or better put, through years of existence and successful ad campaigns, it is unlikely that simply registering a letter and then using that letter alone will garner the desired recognition. Few companies have the ability to be at the top of a consumer's mind when they see a single letter.

What interested me the most though is a little to the left of the actual topic at hand in the discussion. When I clicked on the link provided, several companies wishing to trademark the letter 'A', or 'a' appeared. One of which was well-known (and often utilized by me) online store Amazon.com. For this company, the "A" appeared with an arrow underneath it. Most people remember this arrow from the Amazon logo, I believe.

However, I thought it strange that Amazon would be trying to register an "A" with an arrow underneath it as their trademark. The reason being that this symbol is not their logo. The arrow goes from the letter "A" to the letter "Z" in the word "Amazon" on their website. My impression of this was always that they offer everything that a consumer needs "from A to Z". So, logically taking out the rest of the word causes this branding strategy to no longer make sense. No longer do they offer everything from A to Z. They now offer "A" with an arrow underneath that "A" for some reason. My question is, if the Z is gone from the A then what is the arrow there for? What does it mean? Well, nothing, really. At the very most, it could mean that "We are Amazon...and you all remember the arrow, right?"

It seems to me that if this link is to be believed - and, I think that it can be since clicking on the image takes you to a published trademark request - then Amazon did themselves a great disservice by abandoning a subtle, but clever branding strategy in favor of the desire for letter recognition. Of course, it is possible that the arrow under their name (not their letter) no longer has to have a real meaning - because they are "that big". However, something tells me that this is not the case, and they should continue to incorporate their "slogan", albeit in a more pronounced way.