The secret behind every great logo

As consumers become more and more accustomed to receiving marketing messages, businesses  have to work harder than ever to get the chance to tell their brand’s stories. So, in a congested marketplace, a logo that manages to distil a brand into one image can therefore be an extremely powerful asset. But what is the secret to a logo that really works?

The answer to this question becomes clearer when you approach a logo as a symbol like any other. It sounds obvious enough, but symbolism has an entire academic discipline behind it and has been studied since time immemorial. And like any symbol, a logo’s power can only ever be as powerful as the thing it symbolises. For instance, Nike has a very strong brand built up over years of sponsoring very carefully chosen people and companies, and it’s brand is based on dynamism, determination and positivity. The famous Swoosh doesn’t convey any of this explicitly, but symbolises it perfectly – it’s a simple and easily reproduced image that ties in perfectly with the brand’s values.

However good the logo is on a purely aesthetic level, it needs to tie in closely with what the brand stands for (its values) or it won’t be effective. Clothing brand GAP learned this lesson with its widely reported, mishandled 2010 logo refresh, as did the UK Conservative Party when it decided to totally rebrand the party in 2006. Derided by people across the political spectrum, the electorate didn’t sense the connection between the organic, growing natural feeling evoked by trees and what they felt the Conservative party’s brand was all about. The gap between people’s idea of the brand and the symbols employed was simply too wide. Unlike GAP, which backed down and returned to their old logo after six days, the Conservative party stuck with it and eventually the fuss died down.

While an unpopular or controversial brand refresh can bring a big temporary surge in publicity (Choco Krispies, anyone?) it’s a very high-risk strategy to do this deliberately and requires extremely careful public relations and brand management to avoid giving the impression of either pandering to, or ignoring, the wishes of consumers, who are the true ‘owners of the brand’. Sometimes it’s simply better to leave an established logo in place, no matter how dated – especially if the brand is associated with dependability. BMW and WD-40 are good examples of companies that have done well out of keeping the logo virtually unchanged over the years.

When thinking about introducing or changing a logo it is also important to remember that the connection between it and the rest of the branding does not have to be literal.  The great strength of symbolism is that it works subconsciously, so what may seem like an obscure connection between a logo and the rest of the brand may actually be more powerful. Lego’s logo does not feature or tell you anything about the product, but has rounded squidgy-looking letters that suggest playfulness. Hovis’ old-fashioned font and line drawing of a delivery boy evokes the nostalgia that they know taps into something powerful in their consumers. Conveying what your brand stands for by these oblique means can be extremely powerful.

It stands to reason therefore that you first need a clear understanding of what the brand stands for before you can commission and take delivery of an effective logo. This may also sound obvious, but if you can’t sum up a brand in a few adjectives then how can you expect a logo to convey it? Clarify the brand values, and then align those values with the symbolism you employ. Here at Cadence we like to be positive, dependable and right at the heart of things. Our new logo (launched on 1st November) conveys all of this in one simple image. When there is proper unity between the image and the brand, the logo radiates.  Throw a good designer into the mix and the result could end up being one of the best investments your company ever makes.

Cadence delivers bespoke communication and marketing solutions to some of the biggest names in global business, and offers a range of services that can be tailored to suit any budget. Get in touch on 020 7043 8847 to see what we can do for you.

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