I’ve been talking about logos on this blog from various perspectives. I’ve already:
- Presented 3 common types of logos to consider for your business.
- Talked about logo design symbolism and meaning.
- Explained my logo & brand identity design process in great detail.
- Pointed out why a logo is an essential part of a premium brand.
- Described how proper logo application is achieved through the use of branding guidelines.
- Explained the difference between the $100 logos, $1.000 logos and $10.000 logos.
- I’ve also shown examples of my logo design processes (for example here and here).
- I’ve even told you that a service business that’s just starting out doesn’t need a logo.
Still, I think something remains unclear.
Many people don’t use their logos to their full potential. Then there are others who commission a logo expecting that it will somehow magically fix their business and increase their sales. We have to talk about what logos can realistically achieve for your business, and what they can’t.
A logo is a business tool
Like any tool, a logo performs certain functions for your business. It’s not a mere decoration, or an artifact. It’s a device just like your computer, your car, your invoicing software and your calendar.
Here’s what some of the functions of logos are, and how you can use them to your best advantage.
1. Logos communicate core values and brand message
Core values are the heart of your business. All of us have them, even if we aren’t consciously aware of them. Knowing what your core values are insures that the decisions you make will bring you desired results and the feelings of fulfillment. Broadcasting those values will help you attract an audience and clients who appreciate what you do and will gladly spread your message. (If you don’t know what your core values are yet, I explain how to identify core values in this post.)
Part of what graphic designers do is that we use visual language – the language of shapes, color, texture, typography, etc. – to communicate ideas and emotions. Well-designed visuals communicate on multiple levels: the visible level, as well as the subtle level that people process subconsciously.
Choosing a symbol and the appropriate colors to represent your brand is a huge responsibility, because it will often be the first communication device that your audience sees and remembers.
2. Logos differentiate products
This one is easiest to explain visually. Here’s a screenshot of the sharing menu on my phone:
There are two apps called “Messenger” and one “Messaging”, and the only way to differentiate them is through the icon. In the case of apps, having an icon that’s substantially different from your competitors can make it or break it.
In the case of physical products, having a distinct logo on a package is important as well, because your product will be on the same shelf as all your competitors.
Standing out in a sea of similar offers is crucial for success of any business, and visual branding helps you do that. This can even become grounds for legal protection, which I explained in my article: Do I need to register a trademark for my logo and business name?
If you don’t have any competitors in your industry, you’re in luck – for now. It won’t be long before someone else comes into your field. If you establish a strong brand from the start, you’ll have an advantage over all the newcomers.
3. Logos establish familiarity
When a person is first introduced to your brand (be it through social media, an advertisement, a poster, or by seeing your booth at a fair), your logo makes an impression in their mind – if it’s designed well enough to do so.
The second time they encounter any of your messaging, their brain makes a connection to something they’ve already experienced and makes a “*Ding!* I know what this is” feeling. That’s great for you. The more of these “dings” a person has, the better impression they’ll have of your business, and they’ll be more likely to buy from you because they feel like they know you.
Once they become your customer, they’ll be actively on the lookout for this familiar logo.
Nubeculis logo on the book covers – if the customer enjoyed a graphic novel they’ve read, they’ll look for more books by the same publisher
Check this for yourself: next time you’re shopping for groceries, observe how you look for that product that you always buy and ignore all the rest. That’s what familiarity does to your brain. You don’t want to take a chance on other products, when what you already know has been working well for you.
4. Logos build trust
If your logo is present on other websites your audience visits, it can act as a trust element both for your business, and for the other people’s. The “As seen on…” line followed by a bunch of famous publications means you’ve been getting a lot of press. Logos of your former clients make for great social proof.
When your logo is used as social proof for other businesses, like a partner or a supplier, you take on the role of a trustworthy party.
When someone piggybacks on your brand to build trust, they’re saying “This business is trustworthy, which is why I’m proud to say I’m working with them.” By implying that you’re endorsing them, they’re also endorsing you.
Be careful though, because there may be businesses that you don’t want to endorse, or even be associated with. Protect your brand to make sure that your reputation isn’t tarnished by the actions of other people.
5. Logos attract attention
If your logo is designed to attract attention, you’ll be able to use it to guide people toward a desired action. A big sign in front of your offices will help people orient and find their way to you. A logo on a vehicle followed by an informative tagline and a website URL might entice people to check out your website.
Just having a sign in huge letters sometimes isn’t enough. If your sign is visually appealing and communicates very clearly, you’ll get more eyes on the things you want people to notice.
6. Logos provide visual interest on marketing materials
While logo is not a decoration, it sure can be used as one when it’s appropriate. The more visually attractive your logo is, the more opportunities you’ll have to use it on your marketing items in a way that people will enjoy.
Some companies have ugly logos, and when you get a freebie like a T-shirt or a bag at a conference, you stuff it to the bottom of the closet because you wouldn’t want to be caught dead wearing it. Other companies have fun, interesting, attractive logos and brands that we don’t mind carrying around with us.
Concept for a Savarakatini T-shirt with a tail graphic on the back
If you want to prepare freebies to give away at a live event or create products to sell with your logo on it, it helps if your logo looks good on a product, especially if you don’t have a huge budget for commissioned illustration.
7. Logos communicate premium status
Businesses that are just starting out and don’t have huge budgets can get by without a logo for a while, but those that have been on the market for a couple of years need to portray a more serious image.
Logo is just one of the elements of a premium brand, but the very act of having a professionally designed logo makes one thing very clear: you’re not messing around. You’re serious about your business, and you’re here for the long run. Customers respond very well to that.
Brands that don’t communicate their high value offer will forever remain in a bargain bin limbo, and they’ll have a cap on how much they can charge for their services. If you want to charge more, make sure that your brand is doing the part.
What a logo can’t do for you
Judging from above, clearly logos can pull a lot of weight and are well worth the money you invest in a custom design, but they aren’t magical fairy dust. There are some problems that a logo just can’t fix.
1. Logos can’t mask the quality of your offerings
Let’s make one thing super clear: if your product or service is crap, no amount of branding will make people like it. If your customer service is terrible, people will talk and your shiny brand will be tarnished.
Make sure that your services and products are of high quality before you start branding them as such.
2. Logos can’t establish your brand
Having a logo in itself won’t help you become an established brand. Your actions will establish your brand.
Getting your logo in front of as many eyes as possible is the job of marketing and public relations. After your new logo is ready, you’ll either have to roll up your sleeves and make sure your brand appears in relevant magazines, newspaper, online platforms, events, shop windows etc. or pay someone who can help you achieve that.
3. Logos can’t fix your reputation
We’ve all seen it: a business gets into a scandal and loses a chunk of their customer base, and later they’re rebranded under a different name and a new logo.
People are not stupid. It will take a long time before they forget the feeling of being cheated. I understand the need for a fresh start after a blunder, but before you do this, please make sure that you’ve done everything in your power to make amends with your old customers.
If you’re encountering any of these 3 issues in your own business, I recommend that you address them first, and then proceed with commissioning a logo that will help you in other areas.
Get the right tool for the job
A lot of thought and expertise goes into a logo that can do the hard tasks I’ve described above. It’s not something that anyone can do in a day, or even in a week – it’s a process that takes time and meticulous exploration, before a winning design is completed (that’s why I advise that you start looking for the right designer before it becomes urgent).
I’ve been designing logos and complete brands for clients for over a decade, and I’d love to help you achieve the next level in your business through the clever use of branding.
Check out my logo design services and if you like what you see, send me an email to tell me all about your plans.
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
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