Why read this? : Your brand logo is a key part of your brand identity. We review the 3 key jobs it needs to do. Learn how it helps you introduce, identify and differentiate your brand. We also look at the differences between how customers see logos and how designers see logos. Read this for ideas and inspiration on what your brand logo can do for you.
The weird world of brand logo design
The world of brand logo designs is very weird when you think about it.
For brands who’ve been around a long time, it’s an embedded symbol of who your brand is.
You don’t really mess with it, and you don’t give it much thought.
But when you create a new brand or want to revamp an existing one, you’re suddenly forced to think really hard about the logo and what it does.
How you get a new 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 of fiverr.com? Either way, you’ll still likely go through the same logo design process to get your logo.
It’s even there on your business card.
What happens when you launch a new logo
And then having spent all that time (and money) to come up with your logo, what happens?
So, you leave your logo design alone for years because you want to drive recognition and recall. And that means consistent repetition of use and, not playing around with your logo.
(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 ever again, because how would people recognise you without that haircut? (This analogy also works with tattoos if that’s your thing).
Now, we do see the 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 stories on logos 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, that 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 different 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 that 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 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 that take?
As the reviewer notes, 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.
There’s something that feels just a bit off about the tone of these.
These brands would do much better focussing 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 three jobs a logo must do 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 help 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 are actually looking for a logo? More specifically, how many people are looking 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 that 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.