Over the weekend, my husband, Brent, sent me this picture from the Texas Ranger’s Globe Life ballpark. At one of the entrances now stands a huge, gigantic noodle statue, simply with the a tag line “You know you love it.” along with the hashtag BigNoodle (and a warning not to climb on said huge noodle as a safety precaution). In a single glance, before you even read the tagline, you know it’s a giant promotional piece for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Even though neither the name nor the logo are present, you KNOW it’s Kraft because of the shape of the noodle turned up in a smile in conjunction with the electric yellow color, mimicking the yellow cheesy sauce that is crucial and specific to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. (Before going further, I feel the need to confess. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is my all-time favorite comfort food. I make it when I’ve had a tough day or when I’m missing my family back in North Carolina. My grandmother made it for me as a child, so the taste of it takes me to a happy place. I will even betray my Southern gal instincts by choosing Kraft Macaroni & Cheese over homemade, scratch Mac & Cheese. I, Allison, love Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.)
With all that said, why is a giant noodle statue at the ballpark? There was no sampling, no brand ambassadors passing out coupons. Just a BIG Noodle. I did a little digging using #BigNoodle. There’s a smattering of pictures here and there on the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese social media pages, but no mention of it on their product website. I stumbled across a random blog post about the Big Noodle appearing at the Cedar Falls Amusement park for a time. From that, I gather that the Big Noodle has been on tour since 2010, so going on four years this 2,000 pound statue has been touring the U.S., showing up at family-friendly locations like ballparks, zoos and amusement parks to “simply be seen” and to “be seen with.” Ultimately, the Big Noodle serves a simple dual purpose. First, the enormity of the statue makes the product top of mind for a very family-friendly audience, perhaps to start the cravings to want to make it after the game or make it later on that week (I can hear the children asking their parents for it now). Secondly, it’s prime for a selfie/group photo and sharing. Without instruction, people line up to take pictures of themselves with the Big Noodle and share with the hashtag. Bam! Each person that shares it raises the awareness of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese to all his or her followers. The Big Noodle does all this for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with nary an oversized logo in sight.
The absence of the Kraft logo on this giant statue, along with the lack of explanation for it, got me thinking. As a creative, more times than I can remember, I’ve been asked to make the logo bigger or make the packages bigger, even in spite of the design and hierarchy in which I had so clearly given the logo the utmost priority, bigger logo presence automatically means better in the minds of many clients. Also, more times than not, designers are asked to wedge lengthy explanatory language onto POS to explain things that the target audience should get instinctively anyways, like take a photo and use a hashtag, because enough credit isn’t given to the audience or to the solidarity of the design (And if it takes a lengthy explanation, then your target isn’t likely to get it anyways).
How many brands are so confident in the recognition of their product that they can simply use a shape, be it part of their logo or the literal shape of the product, like Kraft has done here with the shape of the noodle, to raise awareness? There are plenty of established brands with associated symbols and shapes: golden arches, a swoosh, a bitten apple, a lightening bolt, a castle and a fairy, a chocolate dollop, a green mermaid, etc. In my opinion, Nike has elevated its logo recognition like no other brand truly has, save maybe for Apple, which allows for its messaging to be clean, clear, direct and innate. The only time Nike uses the word Nike is to describe a specific product. I think if symbols could be in urls, Nike.com would be drawn swoosh.com and people would still know what site they were going to. People are visual and the cues of shapes register quickly; shapes also don’t require translation into other languages (which can be a sticky subject if the name for your company translates into a awkward phrase in another language).
So, with that in mind, I urge established brands to trust in the recognition of their brand, trust in their audience and trust in their agencies. Understand your power and work it. To new brands, I advise you to invest in professional branding and brand development with your agencies, so that one day, your symbol or shape will be in that list that consumers immediately associate with your brand.