Step on our logo to maintain social distancing

I had a say on HDFC Bank’s idea of using their own logo to allow for social distancing, and in the process making people step on its logo, for Livemint, on April 17th.

The idea has been conceived and executed by Leo Burnett.

I really doubt, outside of an HDFC branch, these would have any recall whatsoever. Particularly in unrelated places where there’s no HDFC Bank branch at the end of the queue. If there is one, at least then people may think, “Oh they drew their logos for us to stand at a distance? Nice thought!”.

If the endpoint is not an HDFC Bank/ATM, I see this as a pointlessly vacuous exercise that also puts the brand’s logo in a place that people stomp/step on, something of a blasphemy for most brands.

In context, I remember pitching an idea to a client during my agency days – to brand the airline water-serving paper cups. The client said they wouldn’t do that because their brand guidelines do not allow them to put the logo in a place where it can end up as garbage (use-and-throw). You could extend that logic to other opportunities for branding like tickets, bills etc. since all of them end up as garbage after limited use.

I had written about such usages by other brands here: Space To Pray – a bold, contextual idea in Sri Lanka

But in all those examples, an actual artefact of the brand that wants to reach people is delivered to them – all of them as newspapers, incidentally.

In fact, a few newspapers printed toilet papers inside them for people to use, but those sheets alone had no branding, for obvious reasons.

A newspaper that printed gift wrap sheets did have a client’s branding, of course: Love beauty and planet, and a print advertisement as gift wrap.

The point here is this: HDFC has no actual artefact for people to remember it by in this instance. It’s a logo, and that too, half the logo, without the name. And people step on it, stand on it. Does HDFC assume that people think of the bank while stepping on it? And that it may perhaps lead to some goodwill/recall? I seriously doubt that stretch of imagination.

People are simply stepping on to some notion of distancing. It is usually a crudely drawn white square or circle, using chalk-piece. In this case, it seems like a slightly more permanent sticker of red squares – that’s about it!

If the stepping on the logo seems problematic in India, due to associations of placing foot on something important as a brand logo, such notions don’t exist outside India. Think of the Hollywood Walk of Fame! This stepping-on-the-logo seems less of an issue compared to the very point of using half a logo with heightened assumptions of it being a marketing idea to help the brand in some way.