In the marketing business, it’s always nice when a single assignment becomes an opportunity to suggest a broader re-thinking.
For Duffy & Partners, the Minneapolis branding and design firm, that opportunity came when the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation asked for a redesign of its dated logo. The Duffy team soon realized that Komen needed more than just a logo.
Started in 1982, the foundation has grown into a giant that’s invested more than $1.3 billion in breast cancer research. Its Mother’s Day Race for the Cure draws more than 1 million participants internationally each year, including more than 50,000 who were expected to take part Sunday at the Mall of America.
“As it grew, there were more and more activation points,” said Tricia Davidson, principal and managing partner at Duffy. “There’s Bowl for the Cure, Cook for the Cure, Art for the Cure. They needed a new name and a new brand language.”
Thus the foundation became simply Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Now, said Davidson, “Every time they say your name, they’re saying your mission.” The new identity incorporates the pink ribbon that, though not actually trademarked by Komen, has become synonymous with the group.
In addition to the brand philosophy and nomenclature, Duffy & Partners created websites, clothing and printed material; they’ve also assisted with promotion and event marketing.
The work for Komen has a special meaning for Davidson and agency CEO Joe Duffy, both of whose mothers had breast cancer.
“When you see millions of people wearing your logo on a T-shirt, you know you’re making a difference,” Davidson said.
Although I visited Davidson to talk about Komen, I took the opportunity to discuss the role of design in marketing, a subject that’s always fascinated me. As traditional forms of advertising decline, the design of a product, its packaging and presentation can become among the most powerful brand messages consumers receive. Not surprisingly, Davidson agreed.
“More people are consuming media in non-traditional ways,” she said. “They’re choosing to find media without advertising. They can shut the marketers out.
“If you can truly change the experience of how people interact with your brand, you can reach them. It could be through a website, a store, a package.”
Instead of stashing a product in a cupboard or on a shelf, people might decide to keep it on their counter, just because it looks great.
“More and more companies are experimenting, investing in different ways to promote their products,” Davidson said. “They’re thinking, if I’m going to invest $10 million, maybe my packaging on the shelf will have more impact than advertising.”
The days of traditional media and traditional advertising are ending. Tomorrow’s leading brands will build their identities through participation — like Komen — and consumer touchpoints, like design.