What Does Your Company Look Like? The Role of Your Logo

"Symbols are important, because we think in images, not in words."

By David P. Kowal, APR

Too often, logos are taken for granted.

A quality logo can play an important role in the success of a company; it’s likely that McDonald’s, for example, wouldn’t be quite as golden without the golden arches. Yet browse online or flip through the Yellow Pages and you’ll quickly find that most businesses fail to take their logos seriously. Most logos look like they were banged out with little thought or effort.

Companies have logos for the same reason countries have flags. A logo is a symbol of what a company stands for. It is a visual representation of a company’s image; a snapshot of how the company wants to present itself to the world.

Symbols are important, because we think in images, not in words. A potential customer is much more likely to remember your company’s name if it is attached to a logo. If your company is a service business, your logo can make your service tangible to your customers. A bold, creative logo can differentiate your company and help it stand out from the competition.

If you want your business to be taken seriously, and if you want to be treated like a professional, you’ll need a professionally developed logo.

Reluctant to spend the money? Don’t be. Your logo may be the most cost effective investment your company makes. A quality logo is likely to cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 – or more. If you think that’s too much money, consider that the brochure you pay two or three times as much for will be outdated in a few years. Your logo hopefully should last as long as your company. Amortize the cost of your logo over the life of your business and you’ll see that it’s a great investment.

Do It Once, Do It Right

Your logo is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime expenditure. Choosing a logo is not something you do everyday, so how do you know whether you’re making the right choice? This advice can help:

Don’t design by committee. Once you’ve retained an agency to develop your logo, the designer will develop a set of at least three rough designs. After reviewing the initial logo comps, the first thing the client usually does is show them to everyone in the building and ask, “What do you think?” After getting 27 different opinions from 27 different people, inertia is likely to set in and the client will be unable to make a decision.

Logos are very subjective. Try to follow everyone’s advice and you’ll be frustrated. You’ll also have to deal with a very upset designer. Limit comments to a few trusted advisors. Better yet, seek the opinion of two or three of your best customers – then make the decision yourself. You want your logo to be a purebred, not a mutt.

Choose an appropriate image. A high-tech company we worked with used an illustration of an 18th century schooner as a logo. Like the Merrill Lynch bull, your company’s logo should represent the company well.

Don’t be afraid to change. Over time, a company’s image becomes associated with its logo. A company that has been around for a while is likely to be reluctant to change its logo; the company’s customers have come to recognize it. It stands for something. But not all logos age well. A logo that looked good 30 years ago may not appeal today. Remember, 30 years ago we thought disco and polyester shirts were cool.

It is usually possible to update a logo without changing its overall look. Even Betty Crocker needs a facelift every few years.

Use your logo wisely. Don’t just slap your new logo onto your letterhead and business cards. The use of your logo is almost as important in determining your corporate identity as the logo itself. Have the person who designed your logo also design your letterhead, envelopes and business cards.

Be certain, as well, to use the same colors for your logo at all times. With rare exception, the name of your company should appear with your logo in the same manner every time you use it.

Creating a memorable logo is the first step toward creating a memorable image for your company.

David P. Kowal, APR is President of Kowal Communications, Inc. of Northboro, Mass. He can be reached at kowal@kowal.com.

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