Starting or growing a business is an exciting, frustrating, rewarding and arduous experience. It involves many considerations and a careful use of precious resources. In today’s marketplace, establishing a powerful and memorable brand is essential for any company’s success and, while most experts agree what branding is, few give the logo its due respect.
In my experience, a logo sets the stage for all of your strategic messaging. A logo is not just an equal part of a brand, like most experts would indicate. Like a bicycle wheel with many spokes, your branding spokes need to be connected to one central hub. Think of your logo as the hub for your brand and all other iterations of that logo as your spokes.
Logo Design: Look Before You Leap
So a professional logo serves as a solid foundation for your brand. A great logo conveys expertise, establishes a brand promise and creates an expectation for quality. While many business owners wouldn’t give a second thought to buying a $99 logo, there are some major points you would do well to consider before diving in.
First, make sure it is clear in the logo architecture because you don’t have the luxury of years of brand recognition to get people to associate your name with your product or service. Likewise, you don’t have the large advertising budget required to brand generic icons that don’t help consumers understand the nature of your business.
The vast majority of small business brands are built upon two primary elements: the typographic elements and the graphic or iconic element. Together, they form the basic structure for most logo designs.
There are two schools of thought when considering the naming architecture for your brand and determining which part should receive priority. Each method has its place, and the strategy you deploy depends upon a number of circumstances. Obviously, the brand should work together cohesively to communicate what the business does. But, when do you want to figuratively scream “Johnson!” and whisper “Sealcoating,” versus the other way around?
Whenever possible, avoid deploying a brand that requires a lot of explanation. If your small business relies on outdoor media, such as signs or vehicles, a memorable icon is especially important. It should link the viewer to the message, quickly and efficiently.
On one side, the name might be the most dominant part of the logo, while what the company does is secondary. This works well for well-established companies that enjoy good name recognition and are associated with the service or product they provide. In a local market, this is often the case for service businesses such as contractors.
For example, people have seen the trucks around town, and everyone knows that Smith Striping does striping, even though “Striping” is the secondary logo component. Smith's been around for years, and most people have heard the name. For scenarios similar to this, it’s usually safe to reinforce the name as the main logo component. The vast majority of our brands treat the company name as the dominant copy, and the service as secondary.
Next to the graphical element or icon, the typography used in your logo design is the most critical choice a designer makes in representing your small business brand. Typography communicates much about your brand -- whether it’s whimsical, elegant, dated, common, fresh or futuristic. It should be in harmony and balance with the graphic or icon in order to optimize the audience’s impression.
When making decisions about how you want your logo designed, it’s vitally important to think about the big picture. How is it going to look in the various executions of the brand? Will it thrive in one format but suffer in another? Or are there certain marketing channels we might start using more in the future where you'll need the logo to work well within? Take a minute to think about how those future projects will pan out before finalizing your logo design. Some areas to consider include:
Business cards and stationery. Your business card is often a prospect’s first impression. Make it count and think differently. Ideas include two-sided cards, rounded corners and unique paper stocks.
Signage (for retail enterprises). While it can be costly to change on a rebrand, it’s important to have your signage match your brand. Use the space as effectively as possible without modifying the logo -- and resist the urge to modify your logo’s proportions to fit the available space. Website addresses and phone numbers are less important since the viewer is actually on site.
Vehicles. When designed properly, logos on vehicles provide a unique way to get your brand in front of a lot of people. Make the most of the "vehicle canvas" and make sure your trucks are designed to stand out rather than fit in.
Uniforms. Employees are your brand ambassadors, so make sure they are dressed neatly and professionally -- and that all brand colors are integrated. Avoid including things like phone numbers and website addresses.
Web design. Ideally your new brand should be integrated into your website and should live within the brand architecture the moment you launch your new look and feel. This is really where the brand should shine and where your brand promise should be relayed.
Social media. This is an easy change to make when launching a new brand. Likewise, an announcement of the new change should definitely be made through your social media channels.
Still unsure? Look no further than Disney to understand the value of a memorable logo. After all, “It all started with a mouse.” Nothing better illustrates the importance of the logo than that first Disney mascot – Mickey Mouse himself.
Determining the feelings or emotions you wish to communicate when interacting with your audience is the first step to building a successful road map for your brand. Once you’re armed with this research, my suggestion is to tackle the logo design first, then build all other branding touch points around what your logo, the hub of your branding wheel, communicates.
Dan Antonelli is the CEO and creative director of New Jersey advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc., The Small Business Advertising Agency®, and the author of Building A Big Small Business Brand, available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.graphicd-signs.com