It has become quite common to see T-shirts and bumper stickers where famous logos have been altered to make them humorous. The internet is also full of thesem shared on blogs and via social media.
But how much damage does it cause to the original brand?
One simply thinks back to the T-shirts produced by South African-based Laugh It Off, where they had shirts with altered reditions of the Red Bull Logo and its famous payoff line "gives you wings":
Or this rendition of our beloved Ouma Greyvenstein:
The legal team at SA Breweries however took exception to this T-shirt, as they felt the mocking had gone too far:
The case went through a protracted legal process and in the end, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the satirists.
Difficult to judge:
The problem is that until recently, it has been difficult to measure whether any real damage had been caused by such parodies, as there had been no investigation about consumers’ emotional responses to brand dilution in general, and to brand tarnishment in particular.
Prof Christo Boshoff, head of the Department of Business Management at Stellenbosch University, set out to use neurophysiological methods to test the subconscious or emotional response of consumers to so-called brand tarnishment.
Forty participants were shown tainted versions of the logos of twelve established international brands. Electroencephalography (EEG) measured participants’ brain activity and emotional response, while electromyography (EMG) was used to detect even the slightest movement in their facial muscles as an expression of emotion.
The results show that at the unconscious level, brand tarnishment is not as harmful as many seem to believe. In fact, consumers stand largely neutral to any efforts to blemish the good name of a brand. This suggests that businesses will in all likelihood not suffer severe economic harm due to such actions. It would therefore be unnecessary and probably ineffective for them to revert to legal action such as court cases or even the use of cease and desist letters.
Listen to Kieno Kammies' full interview with Prof Boshoff below: