What goes online

If one were to travel back to the past, he or she would have some difficulty explaining why someone in 2006 would take the opportunity to rethink the iconic UPS logo, gratis, while knowing the company would likely never take their advice and implement the change.

If one were to travel back to the past, he or she would have some difficulty explaining why someone in 2006 would take the opportunity to rethink the iconic UPS logo, gratis, while knowing the company would likely never take their advice and implement the change.

Luckily, these newfangled Web 2.0 applications, which allow you to organize your music into forty different versions of "techno" and enable you to connect with people who shared the same speech coach, do not also allow for inter-space-time-continuum voyages.

But we do have to deal with what this means in the present. Brand marketers may not fully understand why, but when someone decided to set up a thread at design forum Web site yh.yayhooray.com, asking the public to submit redesigned corporate logos as reinterpreted as Web 2.0 companies, the design public responded. Some 100 hundred submissions for brands as diverse as Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, and Chevrolet (now dubbed Chev.ro.let, like the bookmarking site del.icio.us) were posted.

This forum, perhaps, was an exercise in creative exploration - of interest to design students or designers wishing to show their wares online. And, indeed, this is not necessarily new. But rather than in being hidden in an unreachable chatroom, it became a hit across multiple fields of interest. Someone then submitted the link to Digg, where users can vote a story to the Web site's front page, and over 2,768 users did so - an incredibly high number for non-breaking news.

While the designers' intentions can be understood, it's another matter to read the comments - how so many people raved about how the new logos were cooler than the old. This means disconnected and unpaid designers could have as much affect on stakeholders as the compensated ones.

Corporate America's handling of this loss of control is mixed. Google has chided (and warned) journalists for using Google as a verb (which is tone-deaf, considering one of Google's assistance to the mainstream was a mention in Sex and the City). Yet some companies are engaging in collaboration: Chevrolet, again, has launched a Web site ReduceURUse.com where consumers can submit video to display on the Web site.

What Web 2.0 environment teaches brands is that the public wants an active voice in the creation of their image, with or without the assistance of that brand. It seems counter to logic that people would be so insistent in engaging a company, let alone a brand (which is, essentially, a nonliving piece of pixels and color). But it speaks to a concept that marketers have endorsed since the beginning of the profession. Create a compelling enough brand story, and people will identify with it.

That identification is well underway. However, the engagement exceeds the level that corporations had anticipated. Rather than merely concurring with the story that branding, advertising, and PR professionals have crafted for a company, members of the public believe in their own messaging. What happens when the public decides that a third-party brand representation resonates more than the actual corporate-approved one? Stay tuned.

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