Thursday, June 15, 2006

Libertarian Branding, Logos, Africa & 3M

An old note of mine. Note, the last paragraph is what matters.

National should avoid potentially divisive ideas like adopting certain colors when there are other more urgent projects. Bold and risky experimentation should occur at the state, county, candidate, or PAC level rather than being imposed by the National LP. If wildly successful at the local level, then those ideas would likely be easy to sell nationally. However, many great new ideas tend to not have quite the success envisioned. Better to fail small than waste everyone's time.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Libertarian Branding, Logos, Africa & 3M
Date: 2/21/2005, 6:38 PM
Wes Benedict
To: Tx

Ten years ago I was driving across Botswana back to South Africa when an agitated elephant stepped onto the roadway a short distance away (true story). I guarantee you the following thought NEVER crossed my mind: "There's the Republican Party logo!"

Much LP discussion lately has focused on branding, marketing, messaging, logos, and other terms that have different meanings, and are frequently misused. Here I want to specifically point out problems with our Libertarian Party LOGO along the following categories:

1. What the Statue of Liberty symbolizes
2. Inconsistent designs
3. Color
4. Connecting the logo to the party

1. Uses of the Statue of Liberty

Similar to the way not all elephants or donkeys make you think of the Republican or Democratic Parties, not all Statues of Liberty make you think of the Libertarian Party. Below are some of the thoughts invoked by the Statue of Liberty (note these are thoughts that may pop into the general public's minds, not necessarily mine):

a) a symbol of America
b) a symbol of New York
c) a government monument
d) a government monument from the damn French
e) the big green broad who keeps inviting all those damn foreigners to America (just to clarify, I'm pro-immigration; I'm referring to non-libertarians here)
f) the ACLU logo
g) open up the business pages, count the number of businesses with Liberty that use the Statue--my favorite is Liberty Tax Service
f) the Libertarian Party

2. Inconsistent designs

Similar to the way not all the elephants remind you of the Republican Party, not all Statues of Liberty lead people to think of the Libertarian Party. The Statue of Liberty is overused which dilutes its value as a symbol for the LP. The one Statue of Liberty that actually does invoke the LP when I see it is the blue one attached below. It's repeated use and distinctive color and shape is what causes me to associate it with the LP. Unfortunately, artists for our website and websites have confused "any" statue of liberty with the LP logo, Lady Liberty. The LP Logo should be the most prominent symbol on the websites, but instead appear discreetly. Even worse is our Libertarian Party of Texas logo, a black Lady Liberty on a pea-green Texas. No kidding, print out the LPTX logo in color, then open a can of Lessuer brand Very Young Small Early Peas, smash a pea on the paper, and you'll see it is exactly the same color as our LPTX logo.

Before working at 3M in South Africa, I had a project as a manufacturing engineer at a 3M diskette manufacturing plant in Oklahoma. One of my responsibilities was to reduce the number of 3.5" diskettes that had to be discarded because of manufacturing defects. Would you believe that one of the most expensive categories of waste in the manufacturing process was when the 3M logo which was silk-screen printed onto the metal shutters had slight imperfections like tiny holes in the image or slight smudges? 3M guarded the look of it's logo so closely, that even a slightly imperfectly printed logo caused the whole product to be discarded regardless of whether the diskette still worked fine. Eventually they did the only smart thing, which was outsource to China, but that's a free trade story and I'm talking about branding and logos. The point is, 3M, and many other companies, are extremely protective of their logos and have exact font, design, and color standards that are rigidly imposed on all divisions worldwide to ensure consistency.

3. The Color Purple

I don't know who first proposed it, but I like the idea of the LP taking on the color purple as a branding tool. Reasons:

a) The red state, blue state paradigm has firmly taken hold associating Republicans with red and Democrats with blue.
b) Purple is a cross between blue and red, and in some ways, the LP is a combination of liberal and conservative.
c) The orange thing in Ukraine really proved how powerful a color associated with a movement can be, but that color won't work for us now.
d) Green is associated with the Green Party. Yellow sounds cowardly, is associated with Lance Armstrong now (who is trying to ban smoking in Austin bars) and doesn't show up on white paper very well unless surrounded by a darker color.
e) For some, purple invokes images of royalty or even gayness, but I think the relationship is weak, and additionally, in some ways appropriate for the LP.
f) Red White & Blue looks really good and patriotic, but it's too over-used and diluted for people to associate it with the LP.

Frequently when I hear Libertarians planning a presence at a public event, the topic of "wouldn't it be great if we could all wear the same T-shirts?" It never happens because there are so many various LP T-shirts of various colors. If purple was adopted as the LP color, I think you'd see a proliferation of LP T-shirts that may not all say the same thing, but many would be purple making it easier to achieve a team look spontaneously and individually like when lions attack a baby giraffe and there's a bunch of orange cats altogether creating a temporary voluntary herd of cats wearing the same color who actually didn't have to be "officially" herded or told what to wear.

Finally, I think we'd all look really good in purple T-shirts, collared shirts, or a combination.

4. Connecting the Logo to the Party

I've already stressed how the Statue of Liberty symbolized many things besides the Libertarian Party. Another frequent problem mentioned is how the word Libertarian is too long, sounds like liberal or librarian, and we frequently stumble over the small l or big L Libertarian designation. I'm reminded of a company I once worked for with a similar problem that was called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Inc. What a mouthful and how totally misleading considering that they didn't really do any mining and were an international company, not just a Minnesota one. Eventually they took on the name 3M.

I'm proposing a similar transformation for the Libertarian Party. Start calling it the "LP," and use a color purple logo like the one below to help start the transition. Retain the Lady Liberty logo and the text "ibertarian" and "arty" at least temporarily until "LP" is well enough known in the general public that the additional designation is no longer required. All states and counties should use the same logo, but could follow it with the name of their state or county in black the way 3M does with "Worldwide" above. Another benefit of the Logo below is that from a far distance, you can still make out what it is if you are already somewhat familiar with it, similar to the way you can recognize the 7 in 7-Eleven even if you can't read the "eleven" part from the distance. Also, think McDonalds, BP, etc. here. A trick I use to judge the effectiveness of a bumper sticker or yard sign is to stand it up, and then start waking away from it until I can barely see it anymore. If it rapidly becomes a blur, I don't like it. If it retains a distinctive identifiable shape at long distance, I like it.

We are lucky that the term "LP" used to refer to a type of recording media that is fading away which makes the term available for us to transform its meaning similar to the way CD changed meanings from financial instrument to music recording media. Also, LP rolls off the tongue plenty easily.

Although I'm more of an engineer than a marketing expert, I did take a marketing class in graduate school at Michigan and saved the textbook, "Marketing Management" by Philip Kotler, which is considered to be the bible of marketing in many circles. Additionally, in 2001, the company I one-third owned spent $25,000 to buy out the rights to a trademark and trade secret. I've thought about branding and trademarks before when my money was at stake.

Finally, marketing has many definitions and is a very broad topic. Nevertheless, in general, there is a difference between marketing, market research, surveys, sales, branding, images, messages, symbols, and logos. In my opinion, the purple thing I drew above is simply a logo (which contains an image of Lady Liberty which is loosely a symbol of what the LP stands for), which is a component of branding and marketing.

The above is just one idea created with a few hours work this afternoon because I keep hearing about marketing and branding from the LP at the state and national levels and wanted to provide my 2 cent worth (4 hours worth) before the LP embarks on some big expensive branding effort (plus due to dissatisfaction from the Badnarik signs and stickers). I'd rather they postpone the branding effort until they can get the national database and website functioning more efficiently. If the LNC embarks on an expensive branding effort with poor results and meanwhile allows the website and national database dysfunction to go on, I'll work to elect different LNC reps next time. Marketing experts know that poor customer service will destroy any brand.

--Wes Benedict

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dues Consideration at Convention

I'm asking for help with a proposal to achieve a consensus on the path forward for the National Libertarian Party with respect to dues.

What I'd like to accomplish is to take a poll of the delegates at the National Convention to determine how many would like to see a dues-paying membership option restored. If a dues option prevails, I'd prefer to defer the determination of the amount or inclusion of UMP or not to the LNC. While secret ballots, parliamentary maneuvers, and by-laws interpretations have plagued past efforts, I do believe the next LNC would respect a clear mandate, if there is one, from the delegates.

I don't know the appropriate mechanism to make this happen. While a voice vote sense of the body requested by the chair might suffice, with this being such a contentious issue, I'd rather see an actual vote count than rely on the volume of ayes and nays from the delegates on what has become an emotional issue.

I personally would like to see a dues plan re-implemented if a large majority of delegates (perhaps 60%) agreed and I would work to achieve that consensus through an educational effort. I've made it clear in the past that I thought eliminating the dues option was a negative move.

We can retain the free membership option with the signing of the current pledge or perhaps another act an individual might take that demonstrates a request to be a member for free.

"I'm Pro-Choice on Everthing--Including Dues."

Nevertheless, I also think changing the policies too frequently incurs its own costs. I've spent lots of time myself changing brochures, getting changes made to Texas websites, and explaining the changes to Libertarians in Texas.

If a consensus of delegates voted to re-institute dues, then I think theLNC could feel comfortable changing the policy again. Otherwise, I'd be hesitant to make another change so soon.

I've written many successful fundraising letters for the Libertarian Party of Texas. I think the National LP could explain the change to its members in a positive letter with a rational strategy for the future that contained something like the following:

"The Libertarian Party is the party of entrepreneurs. As every entrepreneur knows, experimentation and change is essential for progress. However, most entrepreneurs also know that not every idea or change proves to be successful. The elimination of dues was a bold plan intended to transform the Libertarian Party into a more politically oriented party. However, the results are in and the reality of the data cannot be ignored. blah blah blah . . ."

"While our party will continue to strive to focus more on real world politics, dues-paying memberships appear proven to be a more successful form of fundraising and party building than other things we've tried. Sixty-X percent of convention delegates agreed. We're proud to be able admit our mistake, and will certainly make more in the future, but blah blah blah . . . Please renew your membership today."

What I don't want to see is a by-laws committee ruling or a parliamentary procedure that throws the party into chaos or causes us to take a path that's different from what most of us would choose if given the chance to make a fair choice.

For the record, fundraising and political activity has been on a strong upward trend in Texas recently and we haven't implemented a dues plan, but I think our success has nothing to do with eliminating national dues. If many other states are experiencing an upward trend, then perhaps the National LP has taken the right path by eliminating dues. However, if many other states are hurting and the National LP is weaker and unable to assist other states in need, then we need to correct a mistake.

Texas has now built up about $3,600 in monthly pledge revenue from over 100 donors while our UMP check was only $1,481. Likewise, one-time donations are strong as well.

I think state and county LP organizations should focus on politics and candidate recruitment and campaigns, while the National LP is better positioned with bulk mail economies of scale to focus on identifying new Libertarians willing to make a small financial commitment by paying dues or even signing up as free members.

I'm asking for your help in figuring out a plan or procedure that might help our party achieve a consensus vote and move forward.

-- Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian Party of Texas
Disclosure: these views are my own and should not be construed torepresent others.