The death of the logo

In 1976, Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme (rhymes with cream), which he defined as a basic unit of cultural transmission that passes from one mind to another and instantly communicates an entire idea.2 For example, the skull-and-crossbones symbol on a bottle label is a meme that conveys the idea "dangerous to life, proceed with extreme caution."

Other well-known memes are the hitchhiker's thumb, the white flag indicating surrender, the Red Cross, and the nuclear mushroom cloud. Memes, with their power to communicate a complete thought in a flash, have the potential to revolutionize marketing.

Memes are more effective than logos because they do more than just identify an entity. One of the most recognized logos in the world, the Nike swoosh, identifies the company for consumers. Other logos, such as Coca-Cola and Microsoft, do the same. But logos don't tell consumers what those companies actually do.

By contrast, a well-conceived meme can cut through the marketing clutter and instantly inform clients what your practice does. Creating a meme is less difficult than it may sound. The key is to boil down the essence of what you do for clients.

Review the specific benefits you offer clients, especially those benefits you provide that are unique. Then, think about how you can express your benefits visually or in a few words.

One consultant, who serves as an executive coach, uses a meme showing an individual wearing a baseball cap and the ubiquitous microphone headset worn by professional football coaches. One look at this meme, and you know the consultant is a coach.

Create a list of your target clients' characteristics and their needs, such as growing the business, reducing costs, or improving productivity. Create a wide range of visual images and determine which one or combination best communicates the message you want to convey. Then translate those needs into visual images that communicate a complete idea.

The concept of memes is new to marketing, and many shrug it off just as they did online marketing before it exploded onto the scene. But just wait. Guerrilla marketers already understand the power of memes, and you'll see more and more of them.

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