Logo power

June 5, 2015

Having recently experienced a 3-hour car journey that should have taken an hour and a half (cock up on the north circular) boredom drove me to play the logo game. How many logos could I count on various billboards, posters and bus sides on my intrepid journey? (Sad I know)

Reaching the one hundred mark, two thoughts occurred. First of all, on a normal journey I think I would have noticed around half a dozen at best – ruling out the subliminal theory. Second, I had no connection to most of the brands, even though a lot of them appeared to be targeting me. The logos therefore might just as well not have existed or have been designed to vie for attention in a sea of other logos.

This led me back to when I was a kid living in Germany while my dad was working for the Ministry of Defence. During a half term holiday my mum dragged me into the nearest town on a shopping trip to keep her company and help with the German.

While waiting for a bus to take us back to the NATO HQ I was watching a couple of workman on a scaffolding across the road taking down an old enamel sign from a building. They carefully removed all of the screws and slowly pulled the sign away to reveal, in inlaid brickwork, a swastika. Obviously the reason why the enamel sign was put there in 1945 or soon after.

There was an instant connection with the brand from the two workmen and whoever was watching from below. Albeit a mixture of sadness, embarrassment and anger.

The workmen put the old enamel sign back up and went on their way.

It was an experience that has stayed with me ever since. A logo, which very sadly in this case, did its job – to remind its audience what the brand stood for. Its focus, mission, vision and values all summed up in a single logo that, ironically, originated as a sacred religious Hindu symbol.

On a more positive note there are logos out there today that do connect. Nike and Comic Relief to name just two. The reason they connect is because they follow the same rule…they have a clear brand message that establishes a relationship and a dialogue with their audience. They both prove the point in different ways.

The Nike swoosh was first introduced in 1971 and was designed by a graphic design student. Their core brand slogan “Just do it” was added to the logo in 1988. Since then they have not only removed the slogan but also the brand name, leaving just the swoosh. Why? Because consistent and clear messaging over time has allowed them to.

Comic Relief also has a unique relationship with its audience. Red Nose Day happens every two years (no it’s not every year) and every time they re- emerge with the collection tin we all want to get involved and take part because of the feeling of partnership that we have with them and the way that they talk to us.

There’s a really powerful lesson for all of us here: Not to believe refreshing or changing your logo will actually do something meaningful to take your brand forward if that is what you REALLY want to do. Sure, a change in logo can signify a positive change, but it can’t, it itself, change a brand. And will never be transformational unless there is actual positive change rather than just a signpost for it.