Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your logo looks cool, but is that really the purpose?

Recently, I was invited to be one of the people to vote on a logo.  A couple of them looked really nice, but the whole exercise begged the question…What is the real purpose of a logo?

There have been tons of books written about this, and this topic has been discussed by people much more qualified than me, but here are my thoughts about logos.

Many people seem to think that it’s simply being artistically creative.  It’s as if they think, “If my logo “looks cool,” people will be more likely to buy from me.”

I’m confident THAT’S not the right approach, but what is?

I repeat my question.  What is the real purpose of a logo?

In my estimation, it depends upon the stage where your business or organization is.

Purpose of a Logo: Well-Established Business

Once a lot of people know about your business, then we just need to find quick ways to trigger people to think of them.

A good logo makes people think of a business just by looking at it for a split second.  We can see it on billboards, shirts, or anywhere else.  We simply see the logo, and we think of that company.

There are plenty of companies that are great that simply have logos.  Many of us are quick to say that their logo is great, but it’s really the company’s branding that’s great.  The company’s branding simply makes the logo easy to recognize.

Coca-Cola cheats, so to speak.  Their logo bears their name.

A great and effective logo, but Coca-Cola depends partly on words to deliver its message.

However, the McDonald’s logo is a perfect example of this.  The logo, by itself, is not a result of genius, but the amazingly strong branding of McDonald’s positioned their logo to be widely recognizable.  You can see their sign from nearly a mile from the freeway exit and know exactly there is a Mickey D’s waiting for you and tempt your soon-to-be screaming little kids with their newest Happy Meal toy.  Heck, during moments of extreme hunger, us adults are duped into thinking that a Big Mac is everything we really wanted in life.

It all starts from seeing that “letter,” but that same logo without the branding would not be all that valuable.

This logo is so good, you don't need me to tell you what it is, but now I'm suddenly in the mood to eat.

Key Element #1: Triggers Immediate Brand Recognition
I’ve covered this pretty well, but once people know your company, a good logo “reminds” people of your company the moment they see it.

Besides the McDonald’s “M,” the Nike swoosh is another example of this.  The logo is simple, but we only think of one company when we see it: Nike.

A good logo triggers us to think of that company INSTANTLY, but that’s only possible with a big branding budget, which most beginning companies don’t have.

Key Element #2: One Logo Fits All Sizes
Notice that the Nike swoosh and the McDonald’s “M” can fit on something as small as a shirt tag, but we can also recognize it on a billboard from nearly 1/2 mile away.

Many logos only look good when they’re small or when they’re large.  It’s like they need two different logos, which isn’t horrible, but it’s not as good as having one logo fit all of your purposes, regardless of its size.

The Nike swoosh is easy to recognize on a store's signage or on the side of a shoe.

Purpose of a Logo: A Business in its (Relatively) Early Stage

The purpose of a logo for a well-established business is different than a company or an organization that is just its beginning stages.

For this company that is NOT well-known, a logo has a different responsibility.

The logo needs to catch attention, but it also needs to be descriptive.
The McDonald’s “M” would not work if people did not know about the fast food giant, already.  For instance, I could not leave an artistic “W” anywhere and expect people to know that represents “Wechner” (my last name).

My “company” or name is not household.  My logo needs to reinforce my company name.

It probably helps if my logo included some kind of indication what the company does.

A good example of this is the logo for Michigan Soccer Magazine.If you took time to look at that logo, it includes some key elements.

Not many people know Michigan Soccer Magazine, but one look at its logo gives you a pretty good idea what they do and where they do it.

Key Element #1: Reinforcing the Name

Most of you reading this probably never heard of “Michigan Soccer Magazine,” but the logo establishes it’s name.  If it’s your first time seeing this, it is introducing you to it’s company.

Key Element #2: Establishing the Brand’s Colors
Wisely, Michigan Soccer Magazine helps us connect it with colors that are easy to duplicate: blue and yellow.

In fact, they take (basically) the same colors as the University of Michigan: maize (yellow) and blue, which is pretty smart since the magazine targets people in the State of Michigan.

These colors are included in all of their materials, helping us connect their brand beyond just the words, “Michigan Soccer Magazine.”  We connect the colors with the magazine, too.

You won’t connect these colors with them if you’re not looking for a magazine like this, but if you’re in that market, these colors might remind us of “that” magazine.

Key Element #3: Incorporating the Brand’s Purpose
Notice the “O” in the magazine name’s “Soccer.”  It includes a soccer ball, further emphasizing the brand’s purpose.  It definitely connects with people who are interested in soccer, and it fits nicely within the name.

We don’t always have this luxury, but it’s something to consider when your brand is just beginning.

No, the current logo for Michigan Soccer Magazine would not fit very nicely onto a t-shirt tag.  If you make it the size of a postage stamp, it would not be very clear, but during a company’s beginning phases, that’s not the job of a logo.

People don’t know about that company, yet.  So no logo will replace the work that branding needs to do during this phase.  A logo is just a tool to help build that brand.

Eventually, if Michigan Soccer Magazine ever becomes a household name, maybe it will condense its logo into something like a yellow “M” and a blue “S” on top of a soccer ball, but that’s not appropriate today.  People don’t know the “company” yet.

Returning to what made me write this, I think that a couple of the logos I saw looked nice, but I’m not sure that the organization took all of this into consideration.

What’s the job of your company’s logo?  Is it doing it’s job, or does it just look cool?

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