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MLB Cleveland Indians to finally nix controversial Chief Wahoo logo

(BRANDING) After much dispute, the Cleveland Indians will no longer don the offensive logo on the field – but is such limited progress laudable?

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Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians have announced an agreement that spells the end of the on-field uniform presence of the caricature known as “Chief Wahoo” (a cartoon-like depiction of a Native American that has been directly affiliated with the club since 1947), beginning in 2019. A similar version of the caricature appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1932 and it was a popular accompaniment to news of the Indians for decades. It, along with the 1947 version of the Indians logo, is considered to be far more offensive than the current version of the logo.

A polarizing figure in recent years, “Chief Wahoo” continued the tradition of associating the Cleveland major league baseball team with Native American figures since their name change to the Indians in 1915. The Indians, called such diverse names as the Infants, Spiders, Naps, and Blues throughout their early history, are alleged to have changed their name to honor the contributions to Cleveland baseball by Louis Sockalexis, a Native American from the Penobscot tribe, who played baseball in Cleveland from 1887 to 1899.

In recent years, many groups across the nation had protested the continued use of the logo, with little interest expressed by the team in changing either the “Chief Wahoo” logo or its profile on team uniforms and on in-stadium displays. In 2014, then-team president Mark Shapiro, began to reduce the exposure of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, replacing it with a capital-C, in block format. But that reduction did not lead to outright termination, with “Chief Wahoo” displayed on the Cleveland uniform and in-stadium in high profile games, including the 2016 World Series.

After national debate was renewed during that October postseason regarding the appropriateness of the logo, Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred promised at the time to speak to the ownership group about the logo’s future. In April of 2017, Manfred made good on that promise, making public his intention to press the Cleveland ownership to eliminate the logo altogether. After months of discussion, today’s announcement identified the results of those conversations. In a joint statement, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan said “”We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

So this is the point in the story where we can all feel good that a business, which the Cleveland Indians most assuredly are, realized that greater forces than remaining static in the face of history exist, right?

Wrong. It’s like the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

While the logo won’t be seen on the uniforms or in-stadium displays beginning in 2019, “Chief Wahoo” hasn’t left the building or the public consciousness just yet. The Indians will still maintain the trademark, which means that, with the approval of Major League Baseball, they still control how the logo is used.

Maintaining the trademark to the logo is a prudent move for Cleveland—if they abandoned it, the logo could be claimed by another business or organization and be used in nefarious ways. But because they maintain control of the trademark and the logo, they can still create and sell merchandise with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on it. Which they are planning to do, profiting off of items with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on them available for sale at the souvenir shops located inside their home stadium, as well as retail outlets in the northern Ohio area. Major League Baseball has no current plans to make items bearing the “Chief Wahoo” logo available at their fan shops at MLB.com.

So, should we applaud the Indians and Major League Baseball for coming to grips with an outrageously out-of-place logo and banishing it from the field? Only if you think that limited progress is better than none.

While you won’t see it on or around the field in 2019, you can still buy it in the stadium, wear it, and thus continue to propagate a harmful stereotype in the name of team history, fan loyalty, or any one of a number of other worn excuses. The Indians move allows them to continue to profit, and to do so handsomely, thus doing nothing more than sweeping the issue aside in the name of corporate uncomfortability, when what was called for was corporate courage.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy, or popular, it remains the right thing. There’s a difference between worrying about political correctness gone amok and understanding that the times have changed from when your logo was created and deciding to reflect those changes for the better. And the Indians, and by extension Major League Baseball, chose to do the expedient thing and hope that everyone is satisfied, or at least quiet.

And that moribund silence and misplaced satisfaction is the last thing that we can afford.

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions

(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.

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Google Chrome open on a laptop on a organized desk.

Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.

This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.

To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.

Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.

Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.

In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.

Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.

For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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