This design gives me flashbacks, what about you?

This design gives me flashbacks, what about you?

After years of poor sales and an executive scandal involving rent boys and crystal meth, the Co-Op have come up with a new logo to herald their rebirth.

Except it’s not new.

It’s the opposite of new.

It’s old and not in a warm and fuzzy-felt nostalgic way.

Old as in outdated, outmoded and irrelevant.

They’ve re-instated the old ‘four-leaved clover’ design invented in the year of my birth – 1968.

They used this logo for all their shop signs, packaging and dividend stamps.

I guess in the late 60s/early 70s there was a sense of modernity and optimism.

The Co-Op was new and fresh and brimming with hippy community ideals.

So this might be what the logo STILL says to you…

But for me, it’s different…

That logo is symbolic of growing up as a child in the 1970s in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire where we had our own Co-Op…
This design gives me flashbacks, what about you?

While I have overwhelmingly happy childhood memories, seeing the Co-Op logo triggered a series of flashbacks…

Coupons, blackouts, the three-day week, the Winter of Discontent, rubbish on the streets…

… Flock wallpaper, Artex, beige…

… flares, kipper ties, mullets…

… tepid school milk, semolina, steak puddings, Blue Nun…

… Crossroads, Val Doonican, test cards…

I could go on and on!

Sorry, Co-Op, but it’s almost impossible for me to find any positive associations with your logo.

What about you?

How does it make you feel?

Because this is a massively important point for any business.

Not only for coming up with logos and branding, but for the words and associations you use in your sales copy, blog post headlines and email subject lines.

Are you harnessing the power of emotion?

And are you doing it in a way that attracts the people you really want to talk to?

Because for all I know, the new Co-Op logo is going to work well.

Personally, I hate it.

This design gives me flashbacks, what about you?
But perhaps they don’t want me shopping there.

The company have stated that the four-leafed clover logo is a “trust mark, a passion brand, a timeless classic.”

But for me, the problem with this kind of retro-kitsch is that everyone has a different memory of the same thing.

It never dawned on me that it was supposed to represent a four-leaf clover.

Am I the only one who doesn’t see it?

I guess if the background were a rich green, then it might click, but come on!

I reckon some 1960s ad agency sold them a load of conceptual bullshit to justify what is essentially a weak design that was very much of its time… and should stay there.

Yes, looking to the past can inspire powerful emotional gut-reactions.

For instance, reminding someone of their school days might inspire wonder and joy… that first kiss… scoring goals… the smell of the sweet shop…

For others it might inspire horror… feeling gawky, spotty and un-sporty… horrible teachers… bullying…

The same goes for the 1970s.

That sense of trust they’re looking for in that old Co-Op logo inspires in me a sense of loss.

It’s worth thinking about in relation to your online business…

Ask yourself, what emotions are you trying to trigger in the people who come to your website, follow you on Twitter/Facebook, or see your emails in their inbox?

What is it you want people to feel about your business, products or services?

And that really all begins with understanding your target customer.

What actions do you want to inspire in your readers, subscribers and website visitors?

One tool that might help is Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, which looks like this:

This design gives me flashbacks, what about you?

Robert Plutchik (1927–2006) was a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a psychologist specialising in emotion.

He believed there were eight primary emotions:

  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Anticipation
  • Anger
  • Disgust

The other emotions you see on the wheel are more complex variants made from different combinations and mixtures.

The primary emotions were evolutionary necessities. We developed them in order to survive.

For instance, disgust might protect us from eating a rancid piece of meat… fear would help us run from a lion… anticipation would sharpen our senses during a hunt…

Emotions had a function. They influenced us to take action, without us needing to engage our logical brains.

An emotion would only last as long as it took us to resolve the situation… run away, kiss, cry, shout with rage, attack… then we’d return to the usual state of affairs, calm and logical.

In other words, emotions inspire actions that happen without any logical involvement. This is precisely what you’re looking for when you’re trying to grab attention in a cluttered internet and get someone to read.

If you want to bypass people’s wariness of you – their sense of weary information overload – you need to provoke emotions in every business communication, from your logo to your email subject lines.

A subject line that expresses strong emotion is more likely to get someone to open it. And a headline that taps into a strong emotion is more likely to get people reading the rest of the email.

And so it continues…

Have you tried any of these power words yet?

You’ll find that many copywriters like my old mentor Michael Masterson, or marketing legend Ted Nicholas, talk of “power words” or “magic words”.

In the same ways at the new Co-Op logo instantly made me feel disgust at piled-up rubbish in the streets in the 1970s, these are instant shortcuts to emotion.

Let me give you some examples…

Words that stimulate anger and fear

  • Agony
  • Apocalypse
  • Blood
  • Collapse
  • Crisis
  • Danger
  • Deadly
  • Fail
  • Frightening
  • Pain
  • Panic
  • Risky
  • Toxic
  • Trap
  • Warning

Words that stimulate joy and trust…

  • Amazing
  • Belief
  • Courage
  • Daring
  • Fearless
  • Guarantee
  • Happy
  • Heart
  • Hero
  • Magic
  • Miracle
  • Safe
  • Wonderful

Words that inspire disgust or lust…

  • Dirty
  • Exposed
  • Forbidden
  • Naughty
  • Scandalous
  • Secret
  • Sensual
  • Shameless
  • Thrilling
  • Uncensored

Words that stimulate anticipation…

  • Backdoor
  • Banned
  • Censored
  • Confidential
  • Controversial
  • Forbidden
  • Hidden
  • Insider
  • Private
  • Surprising
  • Unauthorised

I’m sure you’ll have noticed these words used on lots of advertising headlines, clickbait, subject lines and blog posts. That’s because they inspire action through emotion.

Just beware that words and images can have totally different impacts on people of different generations, and with different world-views.

So whatever you do, have a clear idea of your customer profile before you write any communication or brief any designer.

How are they likely to feel?

How do you want them to respond?

What action would you like them to take?

I don’t really know whether Co-Op were thinking of people like me when came up with their logo decision. I suspect they had a massive photo of me on the office wall with a big fat cross through it.

In which case, Co-Op, BRAVO!

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