The brand paradox
A logo says so much—and yet so little.
Increasingly, we are interacting with logos more frequently, from app buttons through to symbols that identify various levels of social status. In a relatively short space of time, logos have come to signify a greater degree of value—and interaction—than perhaps they once did.
Recently, some high-profile identity refreshes have attracted media attention, most significantly Foxtel and BHP Billiton. But what can we really learn about a business by focusing on the logo in isolation or in a narrow context?
A logo or brand identity is incredibly important because it immediately sets an impression. It is the visual shorthand—the badge—which literally symbolises the business, offering a sense of belonging and, well… identity. But the logo is limited in what it can convey because it only seeks to reflect part of the story and attitude. It’s a high-level snapshot. Regardless, in today’s ‘instant’ society, critics often clamour to judge a new logo as soon as it is revealed—and I have to admit, I occasionally include myself in their ranks.
With little or no knowledge of the organisation’s requirements or approval process, people comment on the design elements, the icons, shapes, colours, typography and the sometimes seemingly exorbitant cost of the design (where the fees are mistakenly associated with the logo design alone, and not the full communications program). Others might suggest their five year-old could have designed the logo, claiming their children could even do better. However, they are only judging the end result, not the process and skill required to get to the solution. Esteemed designer Michael Bierut, Partner at Pentagram, New York, believes if a child can draw a logo it proves the power of simplicity, cut-through and memorability, which are huge assets in today’s crowded, fast, and noisy world.
Changing an established logo can be a risky endeavour. Consider the courage it took for AirBnB to stick to its identity refresh in the face of ridicule, while Gap quickly crumbled under pressure. These cases highlight the role a logo has in reflecting a solid business strategy, a means to signal a strategic shift. In contrast, if an identity refresh is undertaken purely as a cosmetic or ‘marketing’ exercise, there will be no basis for confidence or defence if the logo is challenged in the public domain. In those instances, the debate rapidly sinks to subjective bickering.
So, a logo says so little—and yet so much.
While a logo sets the tone and expectation, the true measure of a brand is based on the value it provides customers and how consistently it delivers a positive and memorable experience. In time, this becomes baked into the logo, regardless of how it looks.