Did you know that there is a hidden symbol in the FedEx logo?
It symbolizes speed and precision.
Once you see it, you can’t not see it. I won’t spoil the fun by pointing it out.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t know about it, stop here and look for it.
Yes, it’s intentional. The designer, Lindon Leader, had some very interesting things to say about it.
What’s this doing in a marketing blog? Glad you asked.
First of all, it’s a great example of knowledge blindness. Once you see it, you can’t NOT see it.
Secondly, why make the insignificant significant? Why elevate a minor little surprise into a major distraction, like almost every web site?
I was struck by the question that the logo designer says he is always asked:
“Why choose to keep the arrow so subtle? It seems to show remarkable restraint. Weren’t you or the people at FedEx ever tempted to make it more obvious with an outline or a different color?”
It’s so obvious that I might not have asked the question, but I’m glad the interviewer did:
He replied that the arrow is one of the most mundane graphic devices. There is nothing unique or particularly strategic, from a marketing point of view, in an arrow as a brand identifier.
Then Lindon went on to say,
The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a “hidden bonus.” It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don’t. Importantly, not “getting the punch line” by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication. The power of the logo and the FedEx marketing supporting the logo is strong enough to convey clearly FedEx brand positioning [Speed & Precision]. On the other hand, if you do see the arrow, or someone points it out to you, you won’t forget it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun they have asking others “if they can spot ‘something’ in the logo.” To have filled in the arrow, or to somehow make it more “visible” would have been like Henny Youngman saying “Please take my wife” instead of “Take my wife. Please.” Punch lines that need to be explained are neither funny nor memorable. (Emphasis mine).
In other words, it’s hidden, surprising, memorable, unusual. It’s one of life’s little pick-me-ups on an otherwise boring truck, envelope or uniform. So, it causes Word of Mouth. People like to point it out, or ask others to spot it. Like I’m doing now.
(FedEx did not pay for this ad. That’s the point.)
I’ve always said that FedEx didn’t succeed, as most business books state, because of its brilliant logistics breakthrough of sending the packages to a central point (Memphis), sorting there, then sending back out. They succeeded because they were beneficially unusual and constructively quirky. In those days, secretaries sent packages. They told secretaries they would look good because they would positively, absolutely DELIVER overnight. In those days, reliable delivery was as unusual as a customer-oriented phone company is today.
(On the day I wrote this, an iPhone customer got a 300 page bill, itemizing every text message, from AT&T, delivered in a box. It made the national news. No, not a FedEx box. I looked. Wouldn’t that have been perfect?)