Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Logos are Nice but Only Sometimes Needed

There are some really cool logos out there, and there are some truly lame ones.  Some are even awful.
Note: I got this logo from

In my opinion, it does not always matter: cool logo, lame logo, or no logo.  Sometimes, it just does not make any difference to the business' bottom line--despite what so-called experts will tell you.

My (Lack of) Design Background: I still have something to offer you!

First, let me admit that I am NOT a professional designer.  I do not have anything resembling a key eye for identifying what is important to have within a design.

HOLD ON!  Don't leave, yet!

I can only comment on what I've observed of my own behavior, which only might reflect a large enough market segment to take seriously.

However, I DO represent a very large group.  I do not care about you if I've never met you.  If your company represents something that does not catch my attention or provide something that might help (or interest) me or someone I know, I am not paying attention to you.  I'm uninformed, and I'm okay with that.

I believe, in that sense, the way I think is not all that different.

When it comes to design, I am an average person--possibly even a stupid person (around design--don't go around calling me "stupid" about anything else--it might offend me...if I'm not too stupid to realize that I should be offended, that is :).  I am definitely not a professional designer, or even a novice designer.

As an average person with a well above-average ability to be objective, I will do my best to offer an unbiased objective perspective.  I notice plenty of good things about how logos seem to be used effectively.

NOW if you are offended by what I might write, you can leave!  At least you "heard" me out!!!

Otherwise, let me begin explaining my claim.

An Observation I Made about Logos and Brands Yesterday

I was on a mini road trip yesterday, and part of my trip took me past an outlet mall.  You've seen them before.  They have nearly every brand imaginable, and they seem to be in the middle of nowhere.

This was no different.

While I was passing the stores, I was curious to look at the different stores within the mall.  I was driving; so I could only look so much without putting myself or other drivers in danger.

However, I noticed something like I never noticed it before.  There were all sorts of brands that I recognized, and they all seemed to have their own logos, but there was nothing seemingly "special" about any of these, except one of them.

The two extremes that I noticed were The Gap and Under Armour.

The GAP one is pretty lame.  Not only does it seem to resemble the General Motors GM logo, it also seems to be pointless.

Compare their logo vs basic text.

Note: I made this one on the right to demonstrate my point.  This is NOT the logo for The GAP.
Do you see that blue box with letters inside it making  you any more--or less--willing to visit the store or buy something from them than the simple one I created?

I am NOT trying to imply that you should use MY design services.  I am only trying to make a point about the amount of impact each of these "logos" would have on YOUR buying decision.

From my non-professional perspective, they wasted their money by creating that logo.  If they made the right decision by making that logo, I would like some help understanding it, because I'm plainly not seeing it.

It makes me think to consider getting a new car, like a Chevy Impala or a GMC Truck of some sort.

It certainly does not make me want to change my plans to buy jeans.  On the flipside, see "The GAP" text does not make me want to suddenly stop shopping there, either.  (That made-up logo is not horrible, but it's not really good, either.)

The Under Armour logo looks really cool.  Just yesterday, I got the curves crossing each other to form the "U" and the "A" for Under Armour, and it still makes a mark on my mind without being obnoxious.

However, as cool as their logo is, I still did not want to change plans just to visit their store or website.  If they spelled Under Armour instead of showing me the logo, my buying habits would not change.

Other Thoughts about Logos That Trip Triggered

I started thinking, and I asked myself, "When does a logo seem to benefit a company?"

I came with a few ideas about when and how a logo really is valuable, and I realized that a logo can be more valuable than I thought.  However, from my non-professional perspective, here are some things that need to happen for the logo to be effective--not just cool.

1. Most likely, a logo will need to be paired with strong advertising.

Consider some of the strongest brands in the world.
  • McDonald's
  • Nike
  • Coca-Cola

McDonald's: The arches are not golden, the business model is...and so is the advertising.  "It's a good time for the great taste of..."  It's a letter of the alphabet with someone's last name thrown in there.

The logo is not awesome.  The advertising is awesome!
Nike: Don't even tell me that Nike's logo came from anything cool.

Michael Jordan made Nike's "swoosh" cool.  Did you even hear of a "swoosh" before Nike Michael Jordan popularized the Nike brand?

Michael Jordan probably had some elephants believing that THEY could jump like Jordan...if only they had those shoes.

I'm convinced that the logo was irrelevant, and Michael would have elevated the brand, regardless of the logo.

Coca-Cola: There is nothing special about this logo, either.  People did not start drinking this junk because of a logo that has "Coke" or "Coca-Cola" on it.

They just advertise more than nearly anyone else.  Pepsi is the only one even close, and Pepsi just happens to be the next cola the average person considers, not counting the people who are already brand loyalists.

"Just for the taste of it, Diet..."

Would it really matter if the logo looked much different from the beginning?  I sincerely doubt it!

There are plenty of other examples, but I think I made my point.  If I didn't make my point by now, I don't think that adding 3 more examples will make my point any better.

Let me know if I'm wrong about that, and I will add more examples.

2. Without a logo, you otherwise blend with the crowd--maybe.

Some people believe that this is unconditionally true, but I only think it applies during certain times.

A. If you offer a commodity that many other people make, like a cola drink product, then you might need to have some visual distinction to separate yourself from your competitors.  Go to the grocery store or a gas station convenience store setup, and you see a sea of different drinks.

Without a distinctive branding logo, we have to depend upon the person taking time to read each drink.  What are the chances that we get many people taking time to read when they quickly recognize their own 1 or 2 favorite brands?

B. If you want to position yourself to advertise on smaller spaces, then the right logo will fit nearly anywhere and still make people think of you--without having to see your company's fully spelled out name.

The Under Armour and Nike logos are great examples of that.  Those logos even could fit on a T-Shirt tag and still be seen clearly.

C. If you want your company to be seen amongst many other stores in a mall or near an express way exit, you will benefit from having a distinct, easy-to-see logo.

Think of the big golden "M."  After traveling, how many of us are willing to tolerate that substandard tasting junk, just because we know what to expect.  If McDonald's tried to have us see the whole word "McDonald's" while driving, we'd have to be pretty close.  By that time, we might be able to read the other choices available at the exit.

We SEE that "M" though, and we KNOW what it is, and we start salivating before we know what other choices are available at that exit or mall.

3. A logo might help trigger an emotional response--a true key to any marketing plan.

I never even considered this one, until I saw this video.  (The video is about 5 minutes, and it starts a little slowly.  If you can take the time, watch it and wait out the video.)

Note: This video came from Before and After Magazine--

The video takes an example of an individual who owns her own company, a pet sitting service.  It does a good job of showing how it can create a logo to generate trust in someone we've never met.

I admit, I would give this person a call.  The card seems so fitting, and there is no rational thinking for it.  Simply put, the logo is a picture that triggers an emotion--a illogical response.

Conclusion: Only some logos are necessary, but the best ones can be effective.

After spending time writing and thinking about this, I acknowledge that really good logos can influence my buying decision.  At the very least, they get me thinking about the company they represent more than I would think of them, otherwise.

That last part is important, because my subconscious thoughts are affected, and I don't have very much control over that part of my thinking process.  In fact, now my emotions are mixing with my thoughts, which is key to almost every buying decision.

I am convinced that logos do NOT make the brand in most cases (although that video makes me lift my foot of that gas pedal a little bit).  We quickly recognize some very unspectacular logos that have a very spectacular effect on us.

That is advertising.

However, a logo can help separate us from the crowd, and in the best cases, they can trigger an emotional response.  That response might cause us to buy today or just simply think about it for later.  We might talk to someone about it, or we might picture that logo when we hear another person mention that company.

I think that logos can be a truly important part of a great marketing plan, but I am not convinced that they do a lot of make or break a company.  They only might enhance it.

If there are any truly professional designers still reading this, I'd love to see or hear your thoughts.

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