Why read this? : We look at the weird world of brand logo design. Learn when it’s used and what it’s for. We also look at some current examples and how they’re covered in the news. Read this to learn how to use your brand logo to introduce, identify and differentiate your brand.
Brand logo design is a kinda weird area, isn’t it?
You rarely mess around with this key brand identity asset on long-established brands. Marketers give it little thought.
But on new brands or when an existing needs a revamp, you give lots of thought to the logo. About what it does for the brand. And how to evaluate it.
Who creates your logo depends on how you manage graphic design in your business. Maybe you spend thousands of dollars on swanky graphic design agencies? Or you hire a freelancer for a few bucks on fiverr.com? Either way though, you’ll still likely go through the same logo design process to get there.
You’ll work with a designer to create something with text, shapes and colours to visually represent your brand. It’ll go on your packaging. Your website. Your advertising campaigns. It’s even on your business card.
What happens when you launch a new logo
Having spent all that time (and money) to come up with it, what happens next?
So, it’s left alone for years because you want to drive recognition and recall. And that means consistent repeated use and not playing around with it.
(see our design psychology article for more on recognition and recall).
It’s like getting a new haircut when you’re 18. And then realising most people don’t really care about your haircut. But then never changing that haircut again, because how would people recognise you without it?
Now, there is value in brand identity consistency. But like haircuts, logos can and should evolve to reflect the times. That’s why outside the AFL, you hardly see mullets these days.
Cadbury’s new brand logo
This week’s post was inspired by seeing not one but two logo stories in the past few weeks. That’s logo news stories turning up like buses. Except people care about the bus turning up.
Not many people sitting around waiting for new logo news, that’s for sure.
The first story was about Cadbury’s and their re-release of the Marble chocolate bar in Australia. It features the first update to the logo in 50 years. You can read about it here.
Cadbury’s brand identity is a strong one.
We all recognise the purple and gold block when we go down the supermarket aisle. And to be honest, when you look at the changes they’ve made, the changes to the logo are relatively minor.
It’s flat rather than at an angle. The font looks a little thinner. They’ve changed the lighting effect on it.
Something a little weird has gone on with the letter ‘b’. And the sub-brand name is clearly now flat rather than wavy. And it’s in CAPS and a thicker font.
We can imagine the conversations that went on.
Brand teams, design agency, market researchers asking for customer feedback. We’re sure there were lots of debates and worried discussions. All very normal on big brands.
But 2 things really stand out for us.
It's fine, but ...
First, there’s probably some piece of research somewhere in Cadbury’s that shows an increase in Purchase Intent for the new logo.
But think about where and how most people buy the products. Grabbed from near the till at the newsagent. Thrown in the trolley when faced with overwhelming choices in the chocolate aisle.
We bet 99.9% of customers wouldn’t even notice the change unless you pointed it out to them. How much time and effort went into something most customers won’t notice?
And second, if you doubt how much effort went into the logo design, just read what the company had to say about it.
“The new elevated packaging includes a redrawn wordmark, new iconography and typography, making the look and feel more natural, authentic and high quality,” a company spokesperson said.
“The revitalisation of the Cadbury wordmark drew inspiration from the hand of founder John Cadbury himself to create a beautifully crafted signature with a more contemporary feel.”
Urgh. What a load of pretentious marketing wank.
... who's it for anyway?
It’s very weird this got out in public. How many customers care about the authenticity of the signature?
This statement was clearly designed for those who work in specialised logo and graphic design agencies. Like we said at the start, those that live in the weird world of logo design.
While we recognise the skill involved in logo design, we’re suspicious of those who take it too seriously. You know the ones. Trying to bump up the value of their services to gullible brand managers.
Look at this review of the new Cadbury’s logo, for example.
The commentary on this is fair, actually not too wanky. But just look at all those materials and especially the video which accompanies it. How much did that cost, and how long did it take?
As the reviewer points out, for something customers probably won’t notice.
Social distancing logos
Our other recent logo story was related to the (temporary) changes big companies are making to their logos to encourage social distancing.
We’re trying not to mention the C-word by the way. It’s way over-used at the moment.
Check out this story and see what the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Audi have done with their logos to encourage social distancing.
There’s an element of cleverness to the design work here, don’t get us wrong.
But we can’t help feeling these brands are using the situation as an opportunity to bump up their brand equity.
Something feels a bit off about the tone of these.
These brands would do better to focus on delivering tangible help to people (which to be fair many businesses are doing). And maybe leave smart-arse tactical bandwagon-jumping like this alone.
Mark Ritson, well-know rogue marketing professor made the same point in his informative (though long) webinar on marketing during the C-word last week.
The idea that brand managers think their brand is way more important to customers than it actually is, is an important one. It’s particularly relevant when it comes to the role logos play for customers.
The 3 jobs a logo does for customers
In our experience, logos (and by association packaging design) have 3 jobs to do.
For new products, the logo helps introduce what it is, and what it does for the customer. The logo helps the brand say “hello”.
Having some sort of symbol of what the product is in the logo – even better. Cadbury’s glass and a half of milk is a perfect example.
Next the logo helps the customer identify the brand when they need to find it. It helps them find it quicker.
In the supermarket. In the bar. On the e-commerce website.
Recognising and remembering the logo works as a short-cut for customers. It makes the brand stand out and be distinctive. (see our behavioural science article for more on why being distinctive matters). Next job for the logo is to help the brand say “hey, it’s me!”.
And finally, if the product has multiple formats, or launches innovations, the logo helps differentiate those products and helps you navigate the range. (helping overcome some of the challenges that exist in innovation). Final job is to help the brand say “Let me help you find exactly what you’re looking for”.
Conclusion - introduce, identify, differentiate
Logos are everywhere when you start to look.
But think about this. How many people look for a logo? More specifically, how many people look for your logo. And when and where are they looking for it?
How is your logo doing those 3 key jobs – introduce, identify, differentiate – for the customer? And in what context will the customer see the logo?
We wanted to end with a less well-known brand logo example. We spotted this The Water Shop logo on a recent walk around a nearby neighbourhood.
It’s a shop that sells, well, you can probably figure it out from the picture.
Thankfully, the threat of drought (and fire) is a bit of a distant memory for now (until next time). But, if we did need to go find somewhere to look for equipment related to water and water services, we’re pretty sure we’d give this place a go.
The blue colour and that use of the tap for the ’t’ is everything a logo needs to be.
It tells us what the brand is (introducer) and what it does and why we might need it (identifier). And the design is distinct and unique enough we’d remember it versus competitors (differentiator).
Simple. But we’re sure highly effective.
So whatever your dealings with the weird world of logos, remember this.
Logos have 3 jobs to do – to introduce, to identify and to differentiate. But outside that, very few people outside a bunch of graphic design nerds will actually care what your logo looks like.