What does your logo say about your brand?

More than any single piece of marketing communication you send out into the marketplace, the one most frequently seen is definitely your corporate or brand logo. But have you ever given serious thought to what your logo says about your company, your philosophy, your people and your credibility?

Maybe it's time to give that question some further consideration. A recent New York Times article cites a new breed of logo emerging in this distressed economic environment we live and work in. It's a warmer, fuzzier, more accessible and friendly looking logo. It's nonthreatening, reassuring, even playful. As the article puts it, "not emblems of distant behemoths, but faces of friends."

Experts agree and say that logos are becoming less official looking and more conversational. They are not yelling; they're inviting. They're more neighborly. They convey more emotion.

If this is true, then the reasons are obvious. In this era of Wall Street greed and corporate insensitivity to the plight of everyman, we are all looking for someone to hate or blame. Those stuffed shirts in the big corner office will fit the bill just fine, thank you. Bigger has become badder, not better. So there may be an advantage to looking smaller and more approachable, right? Plus, we live in an environment of increased transparency, as the Internet allows us a previously unavailable view of the workings and corporate citizenship achievements or infractions of companies both large and small.

If you need further evidence of this significant one-to-one networking trend, just take a look at the rapid growth of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Superficial as many of our 'tweets' or 'status updates' might appear, they provide us an efficient way to stay connected to our peers and manage personal relationships. And this isn't just teenagers trying to hook up. Less than five per cent of Twitter users are teenagers and 20-somethings.

So specifically what constitutes a 'warmer, friendlier' logo? Less intrusive typefaces. More lower-case treatments. Increased use of softer, subtler graphic elements and 'happier,' brighter colours. Sans-serif typefaces are increasingly popular because they appear friendlier and less pretentious. Walmart's new logo is a good example, as shown here. Less harsh and military looking, it is now more differentiated vs its major competitors Target and Kmart. And other national brands have followed suit. Apple, Palm, Microsoft, Google, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and even Betty Crocker have made dramatic logo changes over the past decade.

So how does one evaluate one's logo? First off, this is definitely not a science. It's a subjective process at best. That said, generally an effective brand logo:

  • Reflects a simple graphic design approach. Less is more. Strong logos register with the viewer in seconds.
  • Is visually focused, without a lot of subscript or too may colours.
  • Communicates clearly with universal imagery that takes into consideration potential global-marketing implications.
  • Complements your desired brand positioning and value proposition.
  • Works well in both large and small applications.
  • Is not created by committee. Feedback should be welcomed, but ultimately, someone has to own the process and make the call.
  • Appeals to your key stakeholders — those who know the brand best.

Your brand identity is continually in evolution. It can be influenced by shifts in the marketplace or changes in consumer or trade-buying behaviours. The important thing is to keep looking at and listening to your customers and your competition. And don't be afraid to let your brand identity evolve to better meet those needs.

Jeff Hilton is the co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group

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