If you own or manage a company – small, medium or even large corporation, it’s super tough these days to find what makes you different and stand out. It is at a time like this that marketing guys and brand advocates will suggest that business that wants to stand out should brand.
While the whole real gist of what it means to brand or what branding entails is to be handled on other post(s), one of the very many steps taken is always to get a logo. Efforts have been made to pass on the message that a logo is not a brand, meaning that getting a logo is not synonymous with building a brand. That still doesn’t throw the importance of a logo for your business as a solo-preneur, small business, or large company to the dust.
Logo is important!
But logo is hard to get! Good ones especially.
While only very few persons can flex their muscles on being able to great good logos for their businesses themselves, the other greater number of persons always have to per their way into getting a logo for their businesses.
Since this is business, it’s always important to make sure there’s a good return for every penny and time put into acquiring the logo. From my years working with businesses, this is what I have found to be the most objection to buying; return on investment.
Unlike Starbucks coffee, one can’t say how a logo tastes. One can’t say if it’s strong and won’t break easily. It’s hard to know if a logo won’t fade after few months of paying a huge sum to get one.
What then makes a good logo?
You can conduct a litmus paper test of your logo using the following tips, to know if it’s a good one or not.
Simple: Simplicity when it comes to a logo is like the difference between the rich and the poor. When a poor person (without prejudice) gets an opportunity to dress well, he will definitely over dress, having all sorts of jewelries that are not necessary at a time. A rich person at the other hand is not just always comfortable with whatever he wears, he remains an object of admiration even under such simple dresses. Think of the most premium brands in the world and simplicity will come to mind.
Think of Adidas logo above. The one currently in use (at the right) is very simple, but it was not that simple from the beginning. The old version is more complex than the new one.
If simplicity is not important a point, would it have been necessary to change from the old to the new one?
A logo becomes simple when there’s nothing more to remove from the concept, not when there’s nothing to add any more.
Unique: The uniqueness of your logo is one thing that will help distinguish your business from the commodity brand. All wrist watches look almost the same, but one can still identify a rolex brand. Hang an Armani suit and one made by Gucci on the same wardrobe, it’s the logo attached to the label that will help you identify one from the other. One effective way of getting a logo that is unique is basing the design on the personality of the brand. That’s why in the design process I have been using on brand building projects, the strategy session is a core step that helps identify among others, the distinctiveness of the brand.
Let’s say on her hot sunny afternoon, you pop into a restaurant for a cold drink and some bites. Being an enthusiast of the Cola family, you requested coke. But the came forward with these two cups of drinks.
The cups are similar in everything but one, as far as eyes can see. And since you asked for a Cola product, there you have one of the cups with a Cola logo. The presence of the two logos has made the different cups and their content to become unique on their own.
A distinctive logo can never be confused with another. And it gives uniqueness to whatever it comes in contact with.
Audience Friendly: A good logo most be one that easily resonates with whoever you are selling your product, services or ideas to. A good logo is not one that you (as an individual or group) like. It’s not about you. It’s about them. One of the many phrases I’ve heard within my years in this brand thinking business is “I don’t like it”. But this has been minimized to almost zero percent since I made Market Research an important part of my process. It’s market research that will reveal everything about the target audience that will help build a brand that resonates with them. Who are they? What makes sense to them? What are they afraid of? An in-depth market research will help you do good customer segmentation. This is important as selling to married woman is not the same as having an audience of married women who have 9-5 jobs.
Timely and Timeless: The major point here, which is what you will find in other literatures about the characteristics of a good logo is that it should be timeless. But it’s way beyond being timeless. First, a timeless logo is one that is guaranteed to work after today. They are the logos that stand the test of time. It’s not very difficult to see logos that have their foundation on current trends. But that’s wrong. It doesn’t matter who is doing such and how many they are. A multitude of wrongs do not make a right. Where do you see your business in next 5, 10 and even 20years? Will the logo still be able to represent such vision? Look at Starbucks logo.
Their changes on their logo these years is enough to tell you that there’s much need to build into the future. To build a brand that lasts, you should have one leg in the present and the other leg in the future.
Remember I said it’s not just about the logo being functional years to come. It should also work here and now. That’s what I mean by “timely”. It will not be a strategic move to use a vintage logo that will work well only during the Roman Empire for a modern hi-tech brand. So it should be timeless and timely too.
Scalable: This is a technical term for resizable. Even though many times, what comes to mind when one talks about scalability is the file formats, the actual logo concept too is of considerable importance. Generally, no logo is meant to take the exact size it was designed with, in all environments. This is why it is important to make sure not just that such logo does not lose quality (get blurred) when scaled up (increase size) or scaled down (decrease size), but also that all details are retained in such a situation. If we reduce the size of the logo so it can fit on a pen or breast pin, do we have all lines intact? If we blow it up for a billboard ad, do particular details remain the same? In all, no details should be lost.
Proportionate: If I was making this post pre-2000s when social media was almost not in existence, I wouldn’t have bothered about this point at all. This is because in those old days, the shape of the logo (which in technical terms is the aspect ratio) can be whatever the designer wants it to be. But things have changed. And here we are today. In this age of social media, your logo should work well as the profile images of your social media handles and also work on your website. I am emotional here as I have had a client in the past who insisted that her logo should be rectangular. Every attempt to convince her that we should have one that will fit as profile images (square shape) as well was futile. While logos that have square shape will fit well on both social media profiles and your website, you can also have two shapes (versions) of the same logo: rectangular for the website and the square shaped for the social media profiles. Just like in building a brand in general, CONSISTENCY is a watchword here.
Defines Your Brand: I saved this important point for the last, but I believe it’s the last straw that will not break the camel’s back. I want to clear up the cloud as there have been diverse views on what it means for a logo to “define a brand” or “tell the brand story”. To some individuals, your logo should say what your brand does. That means a fashion designer should have a pair of scissors, a lady in gown or a man on suit (as we see always) on her logo. A caterer’s logo should have a pot of food, and a restaurant logo should have plates and spoons/fork. I am still wondering what a dentist’s logo should have so we know he’s a dentist. I am not here to quote such people wrong, as everyone is entitled to his opinion. But I am here to help you see things from my views and decide on what will work for you. When we spotlight the big brands that are moving the world, we will see that almost known of the above applies. Apple has its major products as computer and phone and the accessories, but such is not communicated on the logo. There’s no soft drink on the Coca-Cola logo. What about Armani’s, Unilever’s, etc?
When one tells you that your logo should define your brand, what that means is that the logo should bear one or all of the personality of your brand, its core values, the brand message, amongst others.
What it means is that the logo should be built on that spectacular thing that makes your brand what it is and not what the other is.
It doesn’t mean that the logo should readily show your products/services. For instance, Starbucks just refined their logo not long ago, have removed the coffee part of the logo. People have suspected that this might mean that Starbucks is planning to extend its business tentacles to other areas beyond the sell of coffee. What does this mean? A logo that readily tells me, “He sells bread”, will no longer be useful if tomorrow, you decide to add tea to your list of products, to be able to sell bread and tea, or add beans so you can sell bread and beans.
In conclusion, x-raying your business logo on all or most of the above points will help you choose the best logo for your business, anytime you want to brand or rebrand. What is worth doing is worth doing well. Your investment is worth every return. And I strongly believe this will(has) help(ed) you make the most of the money you put into building your brand.