There was a Gary Larsen cartoon that was a favourite of mine back when I was younger and pretending to be twisted and nihilistic. It posed this existential question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no-one’s around and it hits a mime, does anybody care?”
I hereby claim this charmingly collegiate sentiment for my own allegorical purposes as I present to you the most pointless rebranding exercise that I have ever beheld: The New York taxicab.
Here's what it used to look like:
And here is the stunning transformation:
What in the name of Judd Hirsch do you suppose they were thinking, here? Let’s consider all of the magical things a brand can do, and then ask ourselves if a taxi in the Big Apple requires a single blessed one of them. You new kids might want to grab your notebooks.
Okay, why don't we start with recognition. Some companies like to have a fancy new logo so that people will identify their products and pay attention to them. Geez, I don’t know, but I think getting attention is not a problem that a New York taxi has. Give a typical New Yorker the choice between an empty cab and, oh, I don’t know, eternal life, say, and they’ll take the taxi. Salvation is like a subway. You miss one chance, another one will come along soon. But an empty cab? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Then there’s differentiation. Some companies like fancy logos because they make their products look more special than other people’s products. Could this be it? Well, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL YELLOW. They are supposed to be anonymously interchangeable. The only exceptions to this are the gypsy cabs at the airport which if patronized, we are led to believe by the ironically named TLC, will leave you dismembered in Ziplock bags scattered along the BQE. And maybe the occasional rebel who duct-tapes dingle-balls along the top of his windshield and plays zither music on the radio while he mutters into his cell phone. But that’s it. Otherwise, they’re all supposed to be the same.
Okay, how about making money. Some companies like to make their logos fancy so that they can charge more for their products because of an enhanced image. Buzzer noise! Fares are fixed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Only two things can jack up the price: a tip, or a revolver. Nope, no added image value here.
All things considered, I’d say we’ve found the perfect vacuum of reason for ‘rebranding’. Fortunately, while the new NYC Taxi logo – um, brand – lacks the insouciant bluntness of the original, it’s every bit as unattractive. There is no risk that anyone will interpret this as the commercializing of New York’s unofficial public transit system. Rather, we are left with the impression that this was nothing more than a spasm of vanity from deep in the bowels of the city’s bureaucracy. Moreover, the TLC didn’t even pay for the design work. It was donated.
So, they didn’t need it. It won’t have any effect. It’s no improvement on what it replaces. And it was free.
Kind of leaves you speechless.