If you’re suffering from Snowden Revelation Fatigue you might have missed a tiny detail tucked away in the recent story about GCHQ’s programme to spy on diplomats at high-end hotels.

Whilst nobody should be surprised that intelligence agencies are gathering massive amounts of personal data, it is somewhat startling to find that the many and various services on offer to SIGINT are marketed in much the same way as small arms to the military.

If you’ve never collected brochures at a Defence Fair, nor flipped through ads in the back pages of Asian Military Review, take it from me, the vast majority of companies operating in this industry are not reinvesting 40% of revenue into marketing to grow the business and brand. Oh no, they’re off-piste in comic sans country.

Which brings me to Royal Concierge, the spy programme with a logo. And oxymoron aside, what a logo it is.

When you think about the marketing message, we should be in 007 territory. The Royal Concierge programme is in the business of solutions for gathering secrets from senior diplomats staying in the world’s most luxurious five-star-and-above hotels.

You would imagine the creative brief might have contained words like ‘exclusive,’ ‘sophistication,’ and ‘discretion’ – but no, the boffins at GCHQ had something far more playful in mind:


That’s right. A cartoon penguin wearing a cape and crown, holding a magic wand.

Bond creator, Ian Fleming, was a man obsessed by brand – so much so that he could barely mention his super spy entering a lift without clarifying it was made by Otis – I can’t imagine he’d be impressed by the caped crusader.

One can’t help but feel the Royal Concierge logo is an opportunity missed. Could have gone for something simple that captured the essence of the service: five stars and a plus symbol in gold on a black background; or something representative of the product name: an iconographic of a butler.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and the person who designed this logo has far greater customer insight than me. And if that’s the case, it’s reassuring to know that the people signing off on SIGINT technology are as enamoured of cartoon penguins as the rest of us.