I was recently asked by a client to explain the purpose of a logo. As a veteran of the marketing field, I find this is just one of those things that folks in the industry assume every client needs. In fact, It’s so fundamental that we rarely give it much thought. Everyone has a logo; of course your organization needs one!
Socrates claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I think this applies to marketing as well. As we examine the purpose of a logo, here’s an analogy that will help you grasp the concept.
Your logo is a bank
Let’s call your logo the First Bank of Brand. The First Bank of Brand is where you house all of the perceptions your customers, supporters, staff and media pundits have about you. It’s where you keep that elusive “goodwill” and the 20 year-old relationship you have with your best customer. It’s where you actually store your brand (see my recent article on exactly what brand is). You start making deposits into the First Bank of Brand the day you enter the market.
And you never stop.
When people see your logo, they identify the experience that they are having with your organization. If they are driving down the road and someone in a truck with your logo on it lets them over in traffic, you get to make a deposit in the First Bank of Brand. If your patient has to wait for two hours while staring at your logo on the wall, you also make a deposit in the First Bank of Brand (although this is not the type of deposit you prefer). Your logo becomes the identifying mark that ties together every experience a person has with your organization.
Choosing the Right Bank
Are you with me here? If your logo is a bank, it quickly becomes imperative that you choose a good one. While it is possible to change your logo and transfer your brand to a new bank, it is difficult, expensive, and most often results in some significant loss of brand equity. This underscores the importance of choosing a great logo to bank your brand in on the first day of business. Over your organization’s lifetime, you’re going to invest thousands or tens of thousands (or if you are Coke or Disney, billions) in the First Bank of Brand. So let’s take a look at what it takes to choose a good one.
Unique and Memorable
First off, this logo has got to be something that is unique to you. If not, you risk getting all of your brand assets deposited into someone else’s account. As an example, we recently started working with a surveying company. When you start to look at land surveying company logos, you quickly realize that they all look similar. Ninety-five percent of them have either a transit, a map or a compass as the focal point. You can be sure that the consumer here is going to have a difficult time identifying individual companies out of the lineup.
So you want a logo that is different enough from everything else out there. You want a logo you can own. Your customers need to be able to remember it and recognize it at a glance. If your supporters can’t do this, it’s going to be tough to make sure all of their experiences get properly deposited into the right account at the First Bank of Brand.
A while back I put our family’s “emergency fund” in a high-yield savings account at an internet-only bank. Before I did this, I wanted to make 100% sure that this bank was going to be around for a while. I didn’t want to go get my money out one day and learn that the two high school kids that started the bank had dissolved it and moved to Costa Rica to run a surf camp. I wanted to know that this bank would be around and that my money would be safe. So it goes with your logo. It needs to be able to stand the test of time. It needs to work now, in 10 years and in 50 years.
Banks today have dozens of different types of accounts with different purposes. Your logo needs to be able to serve many purposes as well. It needs to look good in die-cut vinyl, embroidery, on your web site, in black and white and maybe even on the Jumbotron (hey, we can dream, can’t we?). Keep in mind that your logo isn’t the same as a fine art painting. Sure, we want it to be beautiful, but this is art with a purpose. Ultimately, it needs to work. If it doesn’t, beauty is wasted.
Intrinsic Brand Equity
Have you ever received those offers that give you $100 after you deposit $5,000? Free money is nice! Free brand equity is good as well. If your organization wants to be perceived as warm, open and caring, your logo should stir up these feelings when people see it. Color helps with this. Icons and symbols can help as well. At Proclaim Interactive, we claim to be a “think-out-of-the-box digital marketing agency,” and we promise to “amplify your message.” We chose orange because it intrinsically creates feelings of excitement and action. It’s a loud color, which is why it’s used on high-visibility safety equipment around the world. The main structure in our logo is a “ramp.” This shape conjures thoughts of a volume indicator or signal graph. This proved a great association for a company focused on mobile and making things “louder” in the market.
If you can come up with a logo that creates these desired feelings about your brand, great! In effect, you get to start out with an initial deposit in the First Bank of Brand before you even start doing business.
But keep in mind that if you don’t start with a huge deposit of brand equity, it isn’t the end of the world. Ultimately the logo’s “memorableness” (yeah, I know that’s not a word, but it should be), durability and versatility will be more important for the long term of your business.
For the most part, banks don’t produce money. They store it for you. Your business is the entity making the money. You are giving it to the bank to keep your profit safe. They might pay you a little interest, but ultimately that’s not the point.
If you are hoping that someone will look at your logo and understand exactly what your organization does, recognize why you are better than all your competitors, and also have the perception that your products are the cheapest and best quality . . . you are asking far too much of your logo. Ultimately, these are things that you associate with your logo by running your business well and executing an effective marketing strategy.
OK, so what now? If you don’t yet have a logo that works in all these ways, go get one. Don’t deposit your hard-earned brand into a logo that isn’t unique, durable and versatile enough to take care of it. If you are just starting out, don’t put your logo on the back burner. If you’ve been at it for 50 years and your logo has a few bricks falling out, let’s get it updated.
Your company, organization or practice is worth the investment!