Today, creating a brand logo is rather complicated
By Lulu Raghavan
From the early days when cattle were branded as a means of identifying the owner, the logo has come a long way. Today, logos are considered extremely valuable financial assets that have the power to create tremendous value for businesses. However, the process of creating, maintaining, updating, protecting and even changing logos has become more complicated than ever before.
This is primarily due to the challenge of differentiation: having a logo that is different from not only your key competitors, but also the hundreds of other brands out there whose logos are easily accessible on the internet. Just as a new logo is launched, there is often a flurry of criticisms on how the logo is a copy of something else.
The other challenge is that of consumers being offended. Sometimes it happens at launch; sometimes all it takes is for one consumer to post on social media how they think the logo is offensive to some religion or consumer sentiment. And then we have the whole social media universe coming down strongly in support of the criticism. In rare cases (like the Myntra logo brouhaha), everyone agrees that the whistleblower was wrong.
As brand owners, how do you develop a logo that creates value for your business?
It should start with a clear understanding of what the brand stands for; otherwise, the logo will just be an aesthetic exercise, and not one that adds value to the business. This could be expressed and articulated through a purpose statement (why you exist), a tagline or even just a few words. For instance, Airbnb stands for “imagining a world where you can belong anywhere” and Pfizer is about “breakthroughs that change patients’ lives”. These few words or the core essence become the springboard for logo development.
The simplest logo is what we call a stylised wordmark. Coca Cola, Disney and Google are famous examples. Here, you need to select the typography that beautifully expresses your personality. The choice of colour of the wordmark adds an additional element to the storytelling and the impact of the logo.
Then there are wordmarks with a twist, as I call them: think IBM, FedEx, CNN, Subway, Dell and Casper. These logos are wordmarks, but there’s a story or something clever to discover about them.
There are also wordmark and symbol pairs, which is what most brand owners seek. Nike and its swoosh, the Starbucks mermaid, the golden arches of McDonald’s, the apple in Apple are some examples. The aspects to nail here are the storytelling, the fit between the symbol and the typography of the wordmark, and the overall balance of the logo depending on how the elements are placed.
Reading between the lines
The development of logos is usually a highly time-consuming, collaborative process between the brand owner and the designer. The designer will bring a broad range of solutions that express what the brand stands for. Today, the most important aspect is for the logo to be born digital. Logos must not only be digitally native, but should also have the power to create impact in other mediums.
Checks must be done on the internet and in trademark registers to ensure originality and protectability of the proposed solutions. The colour choices and symbol choices have to be deeply interrogated to ensure there will not be any cultural issues in the future. Some large companies commission research to ensure the logo expresses what the brand stands for in the best way possible to its consumers.
With the value of intangible assets as a proportion of enterprise value increasing every day, businesses should look to strengthen these assets starting with their logos.
The author is MD, Landor & Fitch