how to avoid a logo no no

An exciting step

When you start a new business, a new, shiny logo can be a very exciting step in the branding process. In fact, logos can be hugely important to businesses, old and new, big and small — just one glimpse of the ‘Apple’ logo can have us reaching for the latest iPhone, can’t it?

So that’s good — we should all have a logo, shouldn’t we?

Not necessarily (more on this later), but if you do go for a logo, it is so important to get it right.

Get it wrong, and you could end up confusing customers and even worse, sending them to your competitors.

This week, I saw someone’s beloved new business nearly take a nosedive into branding obscurity thanks to a gorgeous logo.

Here’s what happened (all names have been changed to prevent me losing a lovely friend):

Friend: Donna, I’ve had these new logos designed for my business, and they are all really lovely, I just can’t decide which one to go with, would you mind having a look?

Me: Yes, course, love to, send ’em over…

… pause …

Friend: What do you think? They are all lovely, aren’t they?

Me:  Um, could you just confirm something for me… why did you call your company The Daffodil Boutique?

Friend: Oh because daffodils are special to me… (goes on to explain why).

Me:  Right, so why are there daisies all over the logos and not daffodils?

Friend:  Ah, I’m not sure, but the lady who designed them worked really hard, and I’d hate to offend her by not choosing one now. They are pretty though, so I don’t mind really, I just can’t seem to pick one.

Me: That’s because your words and pictures just don’t fit together. A logo should sing out your identity to the world, it should be memorable, and it should make you instantly recognisable — with and without your brand name alongside — these are pretty, they just don’t make sense.

So with a bit of advice, some creative suggestions and a carefully worded email that wouldn’t upset anyone, my friend eventually had a logo that gave her business clarity and consistency across all her communications.

Phew. I really was glad she’d asked for feedback — because that’s all it was, just a bit of honesty and a well-timed common-sense question, but it made all the difference.

There are a few lessons to learn here; a clear brief will give you the right results the first time, and if you are looking for creative inspiration and are not yet ready to give clear directions, especially on something creative like a logo, then brainstorm around your brand vision and values to help you get there — no rush and no pressure.

Never be afraid to ask for feedback from people who will be honest with you — friends, family, bored-looking strangers on the train — whoever might be able to view your logo from a customer’s perspective.

This can work for choosing a company name too, just show them your ideas and ask a few  questions like the ones below:

  1. What do you think we sell?  This is always tougher for service companies who don’t have products to make into pictures, but it’s easy for anyone to get wrong — if you sell legal services, but people think your logo belongs to a technology company, you may be putting off more customers than you are getting, particularly if your company name doesn’t spell out what you do.
  2. How much do you think our product/service costs?  This will help you identify whether your brand logo fits with your target customer. Does it look slick, expensive and exclusive, homemade and crafty, or fast and off the shelf — all will do the trick so long as they deliver the right message and align with your customers’ expectations and budget?
  3. Which part of the name/logo do you like/dislike, and why?  This one might be painful to start with, but listen to the responses carefully — they don’t all require a reaction, opinions are subjective after all, but if everyone says ‘I love the colour but can’t read the font’ or ‘I like the name but what on earth is the koala in the corner for?’ then half the work has been done for you.

Don’t go crazy and torture yourself, you don’t need to stand in the street with a clipboard canvassing opinions from every poor unsuspecting passer-by, but even a little bit of honest and objective feedback can make all the difference to your final logo (or name) — it’s what we call ‘market research’.

If you can’t face going through all that, then please don’t just take a punt and end up living with a poor decision, call in a branding expert and make sure all your words and pictures go together to create a clear brand identity.

Note: When I say you don’t necessarily need a logo, I’m referring to having a picture/icon/emblem to go along with your brand name (think the Ralph Lauren polo player, the Playboy bunny, the Apple, apple).

If your head is swimming with icons, and you just can’t choose one, try stripping things back for simplicity, look at Google, Coca-Cola and FedEx, who use colour and typography as their only branding devices.

Not having a picture logo certainly hasn’t done these companies any harm, now, has it?

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