Open branding – Guimarães 2012 vs London 2012

Just arrived back from Guimarães and something that the Open City team have been discussing whilst in the city resonates even more strongly now with the concept of openness.

As you move around Guimarães the European Capital of Culture logo is everywhere. The heart motif is in every window, on every poster, a constant presence. But importantly, within the boundaries of the shape it is always different – open for adaption.







Shops and restaurants all have their own cardboard 3D Guimarães heart shape, and have decorated them individually in a way which is defined by their establishment. The hearts are painted, covered in fabric, stuck with pasta or coffee beans or hair extensions or beer mats. Every one is different yet instantly recognizable as part of the same brand, and each one has been created by the people themselves, in their own time, with their own care.

Contrast this with the Olympics in the UK. Here the Olympic logo is strictly off limits and any usage of the famous image of the rings is monitored, controlled and shut down if unauthorized. The “brand family” and “brand exclusion zone” only allows those who have paid to associate with the Games to use the imagery – defining it as having a quantifiable monetary value. (See the article about Olympic sponsorship issues on The Guardian “London 2012: Coe sparks Olympics sponsorship row”.)

And in that something vitally important is lost.

The current key phrase of Guimarães 2012 is “you are part of it”, and in the context of the branding this reads as a positive open invitation to participate, to play a role. Where similar wording is used by the sponsors of London 2012 the phrases have a hollow ring of corporate wish fulfillment – we want you to feel something but not actually your proactive input.

There is an incongruity that a European Capital of Culture programme, something which by definition could have the potential to be elitist, has successfully used open branding to drive the involvement of the whole of the population. Where the Olympics, an event which should be entirely about inclusivity and cultural association, achieves the opposite effect by displaying a lack of openness.

Mark Leaver