Summer madness: branding and social craze

Posted by & filed under Misc, Reviews, Technology.

Wow. I did not expect several companies go bonkers this summer practically at the same time. What worse, in each case it seems to be a long-planned (and horribly executed) move that leaves me scratching my head.
Let’s start with AirBnB and its universal symbol for vagi certain body parts. I understand desire to re-brand from time to time. Usually happens during crisis, as instead of improving product company rushes to slap on some fresh coat of paint because “old logo didn’t represent us”. In some cases, where original logo was really crappy or looks very outdated it kinda makes sense. You get sensible face-lifts and changes that don’t distract from the primary product that company is still making. For example AT&T did a remake on its “death star”, Apple moved to more monochrome sign, or Starbucks moving away from initial boobies and fishtails — it all kinda makes sense.
And then there’s AirBNB.

AirBNBNew logo makes me think of office products store, because it looks like a mutilated paper clip. But worse, they chose to “apply it everywhere”, including that fogged up window which made it look significantly more… questionable. When people started to post reactions, company stomped its feed angry at people not getting this grandiose feeling of “belonging” and putting to question desire of AirBnB hosts to slap this logo on their door.

Guys (and ladies), come on. What is your primary function? To help hosts rent out their rooms/homes. I understand that some of those rentals will be happy to use this rounded-up logo but you probably don’t want to be officially associated with them. How exactly would you explain to someone who lived under a rock and never head of your company what that is? You know what will happen? A dialog like this:

— “This represents the sense of belonging”
— Okay, but what is it that you sell?
— Vacation rentals
— Ah ok.

Your logo doesn’t say “vacation rental”. It says “office supply” or “3 year old’s doodle”. It certainly doesn’t help people think “I should ask this company to provide cleaning services for my rental home”, so the whole thing seems to be pointless and silly. And certainly not tested well enough with regular users.

Users, who love your service because you help them avoid paying a ton of money to hotel. You are trying to play up “experience things like locals do” part of this arrangement, and it’s nice, but primary goal is to find a place to stay when hotel is not an option. And instead of adding such basic function as sorting of search results you’ve spent a ton of time and money on logo that looks like a butt. I hope this falls under “any kind of publicity is a good thing” in the end and things will blow over. But your logo will stay just that, a logo, with nobody in their right mind wanting to brand their home with a corporate identity, especially as they might go for another provider like Home Away, which has problems with dated logo, but improved their site significantly. The whole “belonging” thing is just marketing bullshit, unfortunately.

Now another “logo and more” story, the Foursquare.


That’s a prime example of abandoning primary function completely and chasing after mythical “social component”. Foursquare might have felt a bit stale lately, but it still provided the original fun — people checking in, posting photos, writing comments on places. I even started using the app to find interesting things nearby (the exploring mode) all while feverishly competing with other people for mayorship. Duh, gamification.

But… Gamification is out. And “social” is in. As well as over-gratification. I guess it was kinda sad that some people couldn’t compete for mayorships, so Foursquare created a new app, Swarm, where everyone is a winner because, well, you’re only competing with your friends. I suppose for some people that’d be their whole class or all other students they’ve befriended at the university. But for many people it’s completely irrelevant because most friends are moving around. And by “moving” I mean “took off to another part of town/state/continent and live there”, so you don’t really “compete” as your local grocery store is yours (and everyone else’s, as mayorships are now gone). If application is meant to be for “social planning” (hello, e-vite) then that’s fine, but not many people need one, or we’d have a runaway hit of sorts already. Heck, if someone wants to hang out at the bar, they’ll just snap a photo on Instagram with “come hang out” or something or Facebook it. But for the rest of the time people are sufficiently far away to not care, so “global” competition with strangers is way more fun than non-competing with friends.

Foursquare wasn’t happy with the fact that not all users followed through and downloaded a new app. So it nuked checkins in Foursquare app in addition to never-ending nagging. What the bleeping bleep are they thinking. All of the exploratory functions are secondary. And they kill the primary function instead. And promise some “personalized search”.

Do you know what “personalized search” means? Tracking. It’s okay when you voluntarily check in into some venues and whatnot, and then that’s used to “personalize” some recommendations for you. But how do you get that information if there are no check-ins? I don’t need another app that tracks my every move hoping to use it for something useful later, eating up battery. I don’t like Swarm app, which is slow and buggy and irrelevant (see above). So why would I want to have two apps when they’re not useful without each other? Fine, just rename your app into Swarm, port all users there and have both explore and check-in in one app. It just doesn’t make any sense.
But then you’d lose all those users who already installed Foursquare. For, you know, checking in. Sigh

As a bonus, new logo looks like a sharpened glowing acidic F. Excuse me, “watermelon”-colored F. Here’s a picture of similar super-F for you:

Scene from Fairly Oddparents cartoon

I hope Foursquare still has a chance to stop this madness — allow users to continue to check in from the old app, stop the day-glow colors in “new” version of Foursquare (venue screen looks waaaay better) and just work on improving suggestions via regular app. But something tells me they will be stubborn and watch install-base shrink by about 20%. Not everyone has same amount of guts as Netflix to stop idiotic idea when public tells them how stupid the idea is.

Which is sad.

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