Wednesday 6 July 2016

Great Logos Connect at an Emotional Level!

An effective logo will communicate the essence of your company!

Written by Robyn T. Braley

You’ve chosen a company name. Now it's time to create a logo. Let’s ask the obvious question. As a start-up, do you really need one?

There is an easy answer! Yes!

Your logo will provide instant recognition. People around the world recognize the Nike swoosh as soon as they see it. It is a simple yet brilliant design!

Your goal is to develop an icon that will become the image that instantly identifies your company in the minds of your customers, employees, suppliers, and the community. As a new company, it signals that you are serious about what you are doing. 

This logo was created by Unimark for an oil & gas company that manufactures a product that eliminates unwanted emissions into the atmosphere during refining. 

Loyal Brandit readers know that my constant theme is branding. Everything comes back to the brand.

And, what is a brand? A brand is what others think it is. Plain and simple.

Branding defines the characteristics that set your company apart from the competition. It tells your story by communicating with your customers at an emotional level.

Note that I never use the words “brand” and “logo” interchangeably. That is old school thinking stemming from the mark used by ranchers to identify their cattle. A logo is only one element of a brand.  

What does a logo do?

A well-thought-out logo communicates the character, personality, feeling, and "attitude" of your brand. In today’s competitive business environment, a great logo plays a pivotal role in communicating a strong brand. It becomes “the signature” of an organization.

·         Excitement
·         Energy
·         Relevance
·         Meaning
·         Recognition

This is the 3rd adaptation we've made of our company logo
since we rebranded from Braley Communications in 2004. Website

Memory Etching

I was always amazed that, at the age of one, my daughters could recognize the McDonalds logo and what it stood for. Now they’ve passed that ability on to my grandsons.

Today, both of my daughters and my son-in-law have moved on. Today they can recognize a Starbucks logo from 10 blocks away. They do, however, concede that McDonald's coffee is much improved.

Designing a logo that will be etched into the memory of all who see it is what every designer strives for. The goal is to achieve instant recognition in whatever application it is used for. 

And, details matter!  A company called Alternative Fuel Systems (AFS) developed a technology for reducing diesel engine emissions. 

We were previewing the next to last versions of the logo in the company board room with the President and two senior Vice Presidents. The version we really liked had green letters, representing the environmental context of their products, and a black swoosh. 

The CFO slipped through the open door to stand looking somewhat whimsically at the logo. After a few moments, he casually noted that the black 'swoosh' looked like a trail of diesel - which their product was meant to eliminate! OOPS! We quickly made the changes to create the logo below.  

Copy Cat Logo
Let’s get one thing straight. Your company is unique. You are developing a distinctive brand. Even if your business is competing with 10 others marketing similar products, you will do things differently.

Therefore, do not copy your logo from another company. Period! One of the oddest copycat examples I’ve ever seen was a church logo. 

The design pirated the distinctive Coca-Cola logo using its’ unique and highly recognizable font (letter style). What kind of statement did the church leaders think they were making about the integrity of their ministry?

For the same reasons, don’t choose a known icon and try to adjust it by simply changing the colour, a word or making a minor design change. It will still be associated with the other company that was first known for the icon.

Not only is the practice unethical and on the edge of being illegal, but it makes you look like an amateur.

Research is Good

Start by doing research. Just google ‘logo images.’ Take note of what you like and don’t like. What works and what doesn’t work.

"While a logo may represent great art, does it have meaning? That is the question.
This is my inside joke. I love walking up behind a designer working on a logo and asking that questions. Drives them nuts and unnerves them!

Examine logos of large and small companies, well-known international firms and local businesses. Save samples of all categories as they will provide a reference as you shape your ideas.

Competitor Audit

Go online and save competitors logos in a file so they can be compared side by side.

Ø  What makes them unique?
Ø  Does the logo reflect what they do?
Ø  Are they too complicated?
Ø  Are there combinations of obvious and subliminal meaning?
Ø  Do the colors work?

This logo was created by another designer and
needed to be updated and freshened. Website

Think Before You Buy

I don’t recommend buying online templates or $100 logos. Neither should you use stock or clip art images. Be assured that, at some point in the future, what you’ve chosen will show up somewhere as the icon for another company.

Your logo must resonate with your target market. That is why I don’t recommend using a design service located in a country or culture that’s different from yours.

Why? Designing a logo is a highly creative and interactive process. Local cultural or industry nuances are often difficult to translate effectively. In the end, there will be something “not quite right” about the finished product. Cheaper isn’t always better!

I can already hear the voices of dissent! What about Coca Cola, McDonalds, Google, Mercedes, Sony and other internationally known brands? Aren’t they culturally relevant the world over?

Of course, they are! The difference is that they started in one geographic area. As people experienced their products when visiting, they returned home wanting that brand. Demand grew which led the companies to expand into their countries.

However, as you will see by clicking here, the Coca-Cola brand icon has been adapted the world over to be locally relevant and easy to identify in the region. The bottom line is that each version has meaning to the people who matter.  

Getting Things Started

I advise hiring a professional designer. However, as a Bootstrapper, you may have little or no money. Click for Bootstrapper funding options and ideas.

Do online research and find a local designer whose work you admire. Also, ask for referrals from within your network. Look at logos they’ve created.

We didn't design this logo. We just wish we had!

Company Profile

To help start the conversation, write a short company profile. Outline what you do, how you do it and who you do it for. 
  • Do you operate in the business-to-business, business-to-consumer (retail, services) or the not-for-profit world? 
  • Describe the business culture. 
  • Does the industry tend to be conservative and slow-moving or does it change rapidly?
  • Do you sell a physical product or a concept?
  • Will you sell only services or a combination of both?

Desa Glass fabricates commercial glass systems in a conservative industry.
We designed a logo that communicates innovation, forward-thinking,
and quality products and services.  

Looking Ahead
The stretch question is this. What will your company look like 3, 5 or 10 years down the road? I am amazed at how often I’ve asked this question and my client didn’t have a clear answer.

Why is this important? Here is an example.

A name and/or logo that is defined by a geographic region or a single product may soon become irrelevant due to company growth and expansion.

The Atlantic Electrical Supply Company, with an illustrated neon lobster icon as part of the logo, will seem out of place when the company expands to Vancouver or San Francisco. The crustacean of choice on the west coast are crabs.

"An effective logo will endure the test of time. It may be adapted and “massaged” from time to time, but it will be recognizable through many decades.
This logo was created in 2000. It still works with
catalogues, websites, advertising and videos 
we've produced for them.

Customer profile

Let’s remind ourselves of the ultimate purpose. Your logo must engage your target customers and entice them to further interact with your brand.

Developing a customer profile is often passed over in logo development. Why? It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a new company and focus only on it.

1.    What is their age?
2.    Are they single, young couples or families? Does it matter?
3.    What is their level of education?
4.    Where do they live?
5.    How much do they make? Is that important?
6.    What is the gender breakdown?

Cross Platform Meaning

The most effective logos have a simple design and are easily recognized in all applications.  A strong logo will be equally effective when used in a variety of mediums and applications.

o   Website
o   Business cards
o   Social media
o   Ball caps
o   Uniforms
o   Signage
o   Hot air balloons
o   Party balloons  
o   Letterhead
o   Vehicle wraps
o   Billboards

Thiessen Enterprises is a cribbing contractor pouring
concrete footings for houses and commercial buildings. It looks great on
 truck doors, jobsite signs, website, print advertising and golf shirts. 

Color can Whisper or Shout

Colour provides meaning, and context stimulates emotional engagement. For example, bright colours reflect fun, openness, and spontaneity. Dark, subdued colours suggest a more serious, conservative feeling.

Baraka is a home for aides orphans in Tanzania. The colours
are the national colours of that country. The font is "fun" and says "kids." 

Companies targeting women may use softer, warm colours. Companies selling products to males may use bold, aggressive colours.

"Colors chosen for your logo will become the core of your corporate color hues (shades).

However, these rules don’t always apply. For example, if your “serious” business is taking a new approach and plan to do things differently, colours and shapes that run counter to the norm in your sector may be the way to go.

Sometimes you just need to reflect the public perception of your business. For example, if your company has developed a new, lighter, more human way of dealing with families dealing with the death of a loved one, you are still in the funeral home business. 

No matter how your new approach is viewed within the funeral industry, the public still thinks of you as a funeral home. 

Custom Fonts

To be unique, don’t use fonts from common word processing programs. One reason why working with a professional designer is a good idea is that they have access to a world of custom fonts. For some logos we created our own fonts.

The shape, size and unique features of each letter will suggest a feeling or attitude. Beware of choosing a font that is too “swirly” or have intricate details that make them difficult to read.

Suggested Action

If your logo is to provide the feeling of “fast” service or speedy delivery, create a sense of motion. Simple italics suggests moving forward.

A triangle shape, either identifiable or subliminal, signals energy. For example, an arrow pointing left to right or up rather than down – you get my point.
However, think carefully about combining motions. For example, elements leaning one way while a second swirls in the opposite direction communicates a subliminal sense of tension.

Worthy of note! In the English speaking world, motion should be from left to right as that is how they are conditioned to read.

The wordmark and design elements suggest action 
and a company moving forward. 

Stay Away from Predictable or Iconic Shapes

Resist using shapes that are ordinary. They will immediately make a statement you may not want.

o   Light bulbs for creative companies
o   Speech bubbles or megaphones for communication
o   Globes for worldwide service
o   Cogged Wheels for integrated services
o   Wrenches for auto repair shops
o   Plate and utensils for restaurants

Bootstrapper Gone Wild

Undoubtedly, there is a business where you live that has a logo that sucks. And yet, they are highly successful. Sometimes it happens. 

A residential plumbing company called Pete the Plumber is well-known in the market where I live. 

The company uses TV, radio, social media, vehicle signage and branded clothing to absolutely dominate the plumbing industry. The company is also very involved supporting not-for-profit organizations. The owner is a marketing genius who even hosts a half-hour HVAC ‘How-To’ TV program for do-it yourselfers.

When he started as a one-man company, he chose a very 1990s font for the word mark and an illustrated superhero carrying a pipe wrench as the icon. 

Today, the logo looks dated and doesn’t reflect the progressive and highly successful company it is today. However, it has worked. People see the illustration and know immediately who it is.

As a sidebar, Pete always has his Chihuahua Dino in his ads. Dino pokes his head out of a toilet or is revealed in the bathtub bubbles with the pretty girls. The dog has become a secondary brand icon.

Pete does his own commercials and makes personal appearances at events the company sponsors like professional football games. He always wears his costume - bib overalls a workman's shirt with rolled-up sleeves, workboots, and a Pete-the-Plumber hat. People immediately recognize his voice and appearance.

More Copy Cats 

Because of the market presence of Pete the Plumber, start-up companies in the trades have tried to mirror his success by creating their own illustrated superhero. They don't realize the logo plays a minor role in the company's brand strategy. 

Whenever you see a copycat logo on the side of a van at a stoplight, regardless of how different they’ve tried to make it, you immediately think, “Pete the Plumber.”

Wrapping it up

Whether you are a Bootstrapper or an experienced businessperson starting a new business who is developing a new logo, understanding the basics will make the process of communicating with a designer much easier. A great logo doesn’t just happen!

Leading Question

What experiences have you had – good or bad - developing logos? What advice do you give? Please comment!

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and media guest. He is the President of UniMark Creative which focuses on website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. 


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  1. thanks for the point of mention about the startup investment valuation really very useful
    forthe business startup .startup firms get an idea on how to deal with Small Business