Of crowdsourcing creative ideas and Doordarshan logo

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Doordarshan, India’s public broadcaster, has announced plans to change its logo. The move is apparently triggered by the need to appeal to a younger audience. The new design is sought to be crowdsourced from the general public and the winning entry comes to with a cash prize of INR 100,000 (approx $1560).

Predictably, there is outrage among a certain section on the logo change. The argument is that the logo is iconic, part of our childhood and so on. I for one, welcome the move to consider ‘change’. Doordarshan and all its brand elements – the logo, signature music, anchors, programmes are part of residual memories of a large number of Indians. They are likely to rue the change but they are not the key audience of the brand in the future. The reactions are normal (and brands have handled it differently) as we all seek comfort in the ‘familiar’ and dread change. But brands cannot rely on nostalgia of yesteryear audience and need to constantly bring in new audience in order to grow. That’s what Doordarshan is attempting to do. Having said, I hope the plans include a revamp of the _entire_ brand experience – content, delivery etc., and not just the logo. While the strategy to appeal to a new audience and changing the identity in order to do so is appreciable, I am skeptical of crowdsourcing as a route, especially for such a project.

Design thinking needs experts:

The overall business and marketing challenge of Doordarshan goes beyond a mere logo change. I am sure the brand owners know that too. The media landscape is ever changing and a brand like Doordarshan has competition in various shapes: other TV channels, mobile phone as a source of news & entertainment, the internet and so on. Doordarshan being a national broadcaster deserves inputs on the way forward from experts in brand strategy and design thinking. Ideally logo development follows _after_ the overall positioning is defined and as part of overall brand identity especially for a brand in broadcasting (channel graphics, signature audio etc. being part of the identity. The process calls for a much sharper brief than the one put out and the allocated prize money of $1500-odd does not adequately compensate for the expertise it takes.

The current Doordarshan logo was created by a student of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

The NID is also responsible for several well-known brand identities.

Image source.

If they had to crowdsource ideas, in my view the option of asking design students in India to come up with the new logo seems more preferable than leaving it to the general public.

The cons outweigh the pros in crowdsourcing:

Brands routinely seek opinion from its consumers (and potential consumers) about new initiatives – advertising, logo, packaging and so on. Some have gone beyond seeking opinion to seeking creative ideas; a brand name, logo, even advertising has been crowdsourced. In my view, the benefits of such initiatives are limited. When the public is asked to suggest a name for a new initiative by the Government, it may evoke a sense of ownership among them. Brands like Doritos, Airbnb, Starbucks and others have used crowdsourcing for their advertising even.

The “Crash the Super Bowl” contest has continuously grown in popularity, receiving over 32,000 submissions to date. Over the years Doritos has given out $7 million in prize money, while also serving as a platform for creatives to get their names out there in the advertising and video production communities. These ads have become iconic for the brand, positioning them as a comedic mainstay among the most reputable Super Bowl advertisers.

What the effort does is to create buzz and get consumers to look forward to the advertising as it was created by ‘someone like me’. Even in such cases, the consumers work on an already established brand idea and then add their spin on it. Defining the brand positioning and the creative direction was something done by experts in the field. But if the regular bloke on the street was to be asked to ideate afresh, given a blank slate as it were, he would find it difficult. When it comes to creative ideas like a logo or an ad, everybody can take a shot at it. A majority of such output is likely to be amateurish and lack the rigour and finesse which comes from expertise & experience.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter Wellington Reply

    very interesting article and loved your articles on how brands handled backlash to logo changes
    An alternate point of view is to simply use amateurs like DD had done in the past as in students. Nike too did this at the launch of the brand and used a student.
    Almost all the big brands have been created by using amateurs (as in non-advertising experts) and the results have endured long and treated their brands well. I personally feel both in advertising and design the planners get in the way unlike in the past (or with amateurs) where the creative interacts with the client directly.
    I am against crowd sourcing this way, has never yielded any spectacular success as yet, whatever case studies say…

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