Logo, na maaro ise…

Naaz Ekta Patel, the founder of Avesta Foundation, is not the first person on this planet to notice that Myntra’s logo could be seen in another, “offensive” way too.

Many, many people have pointed out the other interpretation in the past.

Here’s a small sample, only from Twitter – the oldest is from 2015 and I have not included any new tweets after the news became public in the last 1-2 weeks. (click on each image to see the larger version)

If you include other social media platforms, I’m sure you may find a LOT more.

Myntra pivoted from being a brand merchandizing and gifts personalization platform to a fashion e-commerce company in 2011.

In August 2011, the brand announced its new platform through a big, splashy campaign befitting a start-up that has raised fresh funding.

Myntra updated its logo in February 2011.

The point is this: for about 10+ years, this was Myntra’s logo. And in that time, many people have pointed out a dirtier interpretation of the logo sporadically. The interpretation has been shared on WhatsApp and other social media platforms and has gone mini-viral from time to time too. But this interpretation remained only in the background, in the minds of few people who noticed it and move on in their life because they do not decide to buy from Myntra for THEIR own dirtier interpretation of just a logo. They consider the interpretation momentarily, perhaps share it online and then forget all about it.

So much that when in 2016 Myntra flipped the logo for Women’s Day, there was not a single person who pointed out the dirtier interpretation as a counter-point!

At no point has Myntra bothered to change its logo because of the sporadic finger-pointing at the logo’s dirtier interpretation.

Except when Naaz Patel pointed it out in December 2020.

So what changed?

What was the difference between all those finger-pointing about Myntra’s logo interpretation and Naaz Patel’s interpretation that made the brand take an action?

The difference is that while others simply spoke about the interpretation online and between friends, Naaz Patel filed a police complaint.

The first thing that struck me is, “Did Naaz Patel reach out to Myntra first, to talk to them about her interpretation of the logo?”. I couldn’t find any direct answer to this. In an interview, she does refer to how she came about this interpretation but not if she reached out to Myntra before launching a Police complaint about it!

Before I go any further, I need to categorically mention that the trolling she received is reprehensible. She is not the first person to decipher a dirty meaning in the logo. And just because she spoke about one of the interpretations of the logo, it doesn’t make her dirty either. It is one interpretation and she has every right to make it public, oppose it or denounce it.

What changes the equation is her involving the law, for her interpretation of the logo.

For context, I wrote about a logo update too, in July 2020. I had written about a unit in Scotch-Brite’s logo, explained how they have removed this unit in multiple other countries, but had retained it as-is in India. I also ended the post with a request: “But, in 2020, such gender markers seem awkward and out of place. I sure hope the good folks at 3M take note of this legacy logo and update it.”

3M India was totally free to ignore my request (there was no police complaint, no threat, no pressure. I did not even find the logo unit ‘offensive’ – I simply explained that it seemed outdated). They had no obligation to take it seriously – after a day or two, people would forget it and move on. Even I, as a regular buyer of Scotch-Brite’s products, wasn’t planning to not buy them – I’d gladly continue to buy them for their quality, not because their logo seemed outdated.

Why would Naaz go directly to the cops about her interpretation? Did she presume that Myntra wouldn’t listen to her at all?

In fact, there is NO history of any other person asking Myntra to do something about the logo since it came into existence in 2011. All people have done is to simply talk about it, in jest or in surprise, and move on. Why didn’t any other person ask Myntra to change their logo? Could it be because they knew that the logo’s interpretation is subjective?

Also, the way Naaz has framed her police complaint, at least based on what I can gather from news reports is, “the logo was offensive in nature for women“. Not, “the logo was offensive to me“, but “for women“. She is speaking on behalf of all women and not referring to her individual self alone. Shouldn’t the cops ask her who the ‘women‘ are if they have signed the complaint too? Or, is one person’s assertion on behalf of everyone else enough to find the so-called wrong-doing?

Anyway, based on her complaint, the Police “found that the logo was offensive in nature for women”!

And because the Police “found that the logo was offensive in nature for women”, they took it upon themselves to send an email to Myntra. Myntra’s officials went and met the Cyber Crime Department of Mumbai police and told them that the logo will be changed in a month.

The difference is that while others merely aired their opinion, Naaz Patel followed up on her opinion and registered her own interpretation of the logo and how it bothered her with the law. That action puts Naaz’s response to the logo beyond every other person’s in the past.

And that also probably explains why Myntra capitulated so fast.

This is not very different from Tanishq succumbing to removing their Ekatvam campaign. The difference was between people outraging only online vs. people finding individual names of Tanishq’s teams on LinkedIn, finding their phone numbers and threatening them in the offline world, and walking into Tanishq showrooms and forcing the employees to write apology notes.

Like Naaz’s offline action, Tanishq too faced the outrage offline. When outrage and the offense-taking business travel offline, brands would take the issue a bit too seriously.

Brands do have a choice, of course. They could fight the charge, but they are not in the business of fighting offense-charges or addressing police cases. They are in the business of making money for their stakeholders. If those other activities come in the way of focusing on the one goal, they do need to take a call in terms of how to get rid of the change in focus and get back to the money-making goal in the fastest possible way. If in the process, they need to expend money, that’s a cost-benefit analysis.

Like how Tanishq put its employee’s welfare, life, and limb on priority, Myntra seems to have put its business focus on priority, even if the change is going to cost the company real money given that they need to update their entire packaging too, besides every new marketing material! But then, it IS a cost vs. benefit analysis.

The most anyone (other than Naaz Patel) had to say about Myntra’s logo was, “I cannot unsee that interpretation now”. And many people have said the same thing. Naaz did not stop with saying that, but she filed it as a formal complaint with the law, wanting the law to do something about what SHE saw and wasn’t able to unsee, even though for 10 years, only a few people had that “problem” which they only spoke about informally from time to time, and moved on in their respective lives.

The trouble with interpretations is that once a new version is presented in front of the largest number of people or in front of a legal body that can take real-world action, it quickly gains currency and spreads, doing real damage to the reputation of the brand. This is how framing works – if I ask you NOT to recall an elephant, the first thing that would come into your mind is the image of an elephant (remember this scene from Inception?).

I’m reasonably sure that Myntra could have won it in the Court if this matter had headed in that direction. Creative interpretations and a decade of the logo not “bothering” large segments of people (enough for them to not shop from Myntra) are some of the easier arguments that could be made in defense of the logo.

Can anyone prove that Myntra designed this logo intentionally, to offer the so-called dirty meaning, as an e-commerce website that caters heavily to women? Impossible.

Yet, Myntra chose the logo change because defending its logo against dirty interpretations is not their core business. It’s a distraction.

But in capitulating swiftly to a formal outrage (different from an online comment), they may have emboldened other outrage-seekers with a route to make their outrage heard by powerful people or brands. The Pandora’s Box has not only been opened on Myntra’s old logo’s interpretation but also in providing an idea to other outragers to legitimize their outrage through the support of the law but also pose a real, offline/real-world threat of distraction and legal fight with brands.

What this needs is at least one brand standing up to such outrage-based bullying moving from online (remaining just another opinion with no expectation of real-world action) to offline (where the damage will be real). That could balance the scales and the outrage-machine would think harder before going offline.

Post title reference: This outstanding song by R.D.Burman!



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