When I was a wee young designer, one of the first things my creative director told me was, “Dude, be careful when you start talking about a client’s logo. It’s like their little baby. You can’t say it’s ugly.”
This stuck with me until one day, when I couldn’t stand it anymore. An unlucky client ended up being the victim of my years of pent-up frustration because he made me put an ugly logo on my beautiful ads. I couldn’t take it anymore so I snapped, screaming, “Your logo is putrid! I can’t make it bigger. It ruins everything!” My client wasn’t amused. But you know what? My delivery was inappropriate, but my message was right and here’s why.
A logo is a reflection of who you are. Stop freaking out about modifying your logo. If it’s old and dated, then you look old and dated. If it’s ugly and irrelevant, then you look ugly and irrelevant. Keep in mind that although the consumer probably doesn’t care much about what your logo looks like, they do get a feel for your brand from it. And that feeling better be a good one. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how great your company or product is. If your mark is bad, then the first impression is that your product is bad.
It isn’t subjective. I hear that all the time. “It’s a matter of taste. My logo is fine.” Actually, it isn’t a matter of taste. It’s a matter of knowledge and expertise. If design isn’t your specialty, how do you know if your logo doesn’t look dated or too busy or silly, or whether the font choice is right? The art of logo design is a tricky one. Only a few master it, and as a marketer, you’re probably not one of them. Find and trust a great designer to create or recreate your mark. It will be well worth the investment.
Don’t get your 17-year-old son to do it. Your son may have taken a design class in high school and he’d probably do the work for $50. But, you’ll get what you pay for — a cheap-looking logo and that’s not good. Remember, if you have a great product but your logo looks cheap, that reflects poorly on your brand, which is not good for business. Especially in the long term. Yes, Nike did the Swoosh for a few hundred dollars over 30 years ago, but they were lucky. It’s just like winning the lottery and you know very few people actually win the lottery.
Do you need a logo? Believe it or not, your brand may not need a logo. Back in the day, logos were first created to help people who didn’t know how to read. John Deere used a deer as a logo because many rural folks and farmers back then couldn’t read, and they wanted their “name” to be easily identifiable. This isn’t the case today.
Your brand may just need a nice word mark (Coca-Cola, Neiman Marcus or Disney). People refer to the Nike Swoosh as the greatest logo of all time because its brand name is recognizable without the word “Nike.” Do you know how much they had to invest in advertising the Swoosh for people to eventually recognize it as Nike? Billions of dollars. And I doubt you have billions to spend on promoting your company name.
Go easy on the overcrowded concept. I love the logos in which designers try to cram in five ideas. For example, a logo that includes a mountain, a tree, a dollar sign and a dog all within the letters of the pet shop name. I’m being facetious, of course, but you get my point. Busy logos that try to force in concepts look bad, are difficult to replicate and are confusing to the consumer. Your logo should be simple. You can tell the rest of your brand story with your website, ads, brochures, business cards, PR, social media, etc.
Not so big! An old joke in the advertising community is that clients are always asking for their logos to be bigger. My answer to this request is usually, “Why? We can see and read it, right?” A big logo is like a large signature. It just comes across as being egotistical — LIKE YOU ARE TRYING TO SCREAM YOUR NAME! Do you know of anyone who likes to be screamed at? Probably not. Chances are, if you are working with a well-trained, professional art director, the logo will be large enough. There’s no need to scream. It makes your brand seem of full of itself, which can translate into being insecure.
So there you have it. If you have a bad logo, go ahead and change it, but be sure to hire a great designer. Do your research, and once you make a hire, let them take the lead and trust them. Ease into implementing the new logo. Start with your letterhead, then your other marketing efforts. Next year, you can do your signs. And the year after that, your trucks.
Daniel Andreani is creative director at McKee Wallwork & Co. He developed his skills as a partner and ECD for BBDO, Sid Lee and TAXI. He has worked for worldwide brands such as Red Bull, Pepsi, Chrysler, Campbell’s Soup Company, EFFEM foods, Johnson & Johnson, and Royal Bank. Connect with Andreani on LinkedIn.