There is a place where bad logos go to die: The awnings of your downtrodden neighborhood strip mall.
Think about it. If there’s a mall with a few failed businesses in it somewhere near you, chances are that the signs, windows, and awnings have one thing in common – lousy logos. You know what we’re talking about: The clashing color schemes; the awkward line drawings; the hopelessly bland or oddly skewed typography that all add up to signify utter haplessness. (Want to see some examples? Check out http://logodesignerblog.com/bad-ugly-worst-logo-designs/ – if you dare).
Consider the fact that for the countless thousands of potential customers who’d passed by that sign or window during the company’s short lifespan, that logo was their first – and often their last – impression of that business.
It didn’t matter that the food was delicious, the prices reasonable, the selection of products exceptional, or the service outstanding. Potential customers who judged on the basis of first impressions never found out; they voted with their feet and wallets, and went elsewhere. Did they make their buying decision based on a bad logo alone? Of course not; chances are, they probably didn’t consciously notice that it even existed. Their subconscious response, though, is another matter.
As human beings, we are prone to “confirmation bias,” and are more prone to assimilating information and impressions that reinforce what we already believe; this tendency is particularly strong with regard to our purchasing behavior. Even the slightest negative initial impression about a product, place or person will lead most of us to be more sensitive to negative information than positive. A first impression establishes the predispositions for all the impressions that follow; a logo that looks like a tasteless, slapped-together afterthought predisposes a viewer to unthinkingly presume that the same characteristics permeate the entire business.
It’s Not An Afterthought – It’s Your Identity
For too many companies, a logo is either an afterthought or a vanity project; when its creation is rooted in either, the results are usually disastrous. What a logo should be is a clear, tasteful representation of your core business attributes, with design elements that correspond to who you are, what you do, and the era you’re in.
A logo has three primary jobs: To be noticed, understood, and favorably remembered. The ones that do these jobs particularly well are those you are already familiar with:
(British designer David Airey offers some more examples of outstanding logos here: https://www.davidairey.com/what-makes-a-good-logo/ ).
Unsurprisingly, each is a brand leader in their category. In contrast, the following direct competitors – those that still exist– are not:
Obviously, there’s more to the relative lack of success of the also-rans than boring, dated, or poorly designed logos. Being careless with a cornerstone of their brand identities didn’t help them any, though; a neglected cornerstone usually indicates neglect elsewhere in the business. Once, these were major international brands, but somewhere along the way management evidently stopped caring.
Before such companies start to lose money, they usually lose mindshare: Their position in the mind of the consumer is taken over by a competitor whose look, feel, and attitude is a little more current, a little more appealing, and a little more memorable. And when people stop thinking about you, they stop buying from you.
Define Your Logo, Define Your Company – And Its Future
If you want your customers to respect and appreciate your business, it’s up to you to respect and appreciate it first by presenting its best possible face to the world – and that starts with expending the time, thought, and energy to secure an appropriate, well-designed logo. Logically, that means a few things: You don’t get your nephew to create it; you don’t copy someone else’s; you don’t sketch it out in five minutes on a cocktail napkin; and you don’t just trust the sign or web guy to “come up with something.” You give your logo careful, considered attention – and you secure the services of an experienced professional, well seasoned in brand identity work, to execute it properly.
And then you test it – yes, you can show it to friends and relatives if you want, but they don’t count. Show it to customers. Show it to other design professionals. Do A/B comparisons between competing concepts; assess how it stacks up relative to your competitors. Dismiss flattery, and take criticism seriously. Most importantly, continually second-guess your own biases and preconceptions, and never settle for “good enough” – because it won’t be. See your logo through the eyes of the consumer: If it doesn’t look good from that perspective, it isn’t good. Guaranteed.
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it’s the future of your business we’re talking about. The road to Chapter 11 is littered with bad decisions, half measures, and bad logos; it’s worth investing the effort to make sure your company doesn’t wind up on it.
For more than 30 years, PGN Agency has helped countless Michigan businesses to thrive by creating timeless logos that define their brands. For more information, visit www.pgnagency.com .
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