Often, when we begin the journey of marketing a brand, the logo is where clients want to start. Looming large on signs or shining out from their screens, once clients realise they are looking to make a change in the way they are seen in the marketplace, they want to signal the change. However, as brand strategists, it’s one of the elements we look to tackle later in the journey.
To understand why, it’s useful to consider marketing expert Seth Godin’s explanation, “…when we scan, we’re asking, “What does this remind me of?” This means that the logo you use, the stories you tell, and the appearance of your work all matter. Your words resonate with us, not only because of what they mean, but because of how they sound and how you use them…We want to know if it’s for us, and if you’re the real deal. This is semiotics. Flags and symbols, shortcuts and shorthand.”
It’s because the logo is a representation of the brand that we hesitate to start the change at the beginning. We want to understand how the brand is remarkable, what makes it different from the others in the market. Only once we comprehend this, we begin to build the brand story which becomes the shorthand for the customer’s expectations. It’s the promise you make to them.
Investing in a brand is investing in a marketing asset but to do that, you have to build a connection with your prospects and customers. Brene Brown defines connection as “…the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued…” To do that, you have to know who they are, how they think, and what makes them feel this way. Based on this understanding, the brand story and marketing messages build the brand’s authority and empathy with prospects and clients. Once you have this connection, once people care, you’ve got a brand.
What your logo looks like does matter, it builds associations with your brand story and signals key elements. Colours have connotations, bright red for stop or sale, yellow for sunshine and happiness, green for calmness and nature. Fonts and shapes similarly create ideas and concepts of what they represent in the mind of the viewer. We love to experiment with these elements with the logo designer to find the right combination which will connect with prospects and customers. However, rarely does the logo stop someone from engaging with a brand they have a connection with.
When a logo, and the brand promise behind it, have been around for a while, we have to weigh up changing a recognisable symbol for something unknown. A good heritage has great value (it’s the basis for the current connection) and sometimes a refresh or a tweak is enough rather than a complete overhaul.
You can work with a ‘good enough’ logo if you build a strong brand story. It’s a representation of a promise you make and, as Seth Godin remarks, “Without a brand, a logo is meaningless… pick a logo, don’t spend a ton of money or have a lot of meetings about it, and keep it for as long as you keep your first name.”
So, rather invest in building a strong brand story, Consistently failing to build a brand story increases the risk of your being seen as a commodity. An indicator that you’re seen as the same as other products or services is when conversations quickly move to comparisons with others. Direct comparisons on product characteristics. Direct price comparisons. The customer pushing for a better price to close the deal. Customers changing suppliers at the drop of a hat.
So when asked we encourage you first to invest in a strong brand story and in ensuring you deliver on that promise. Without it, your prospects and customers don’t know what they can hold you to or why they should choose you. The logo, while important, is secondary. It follows the brand’s lead.