You’ll often hear creative teams talk about how beautiful or full of ‘meaning’ their concept logo or brand identity is. That it’s a visual representation of the business and communicates the very essence of the organisation.
They’ll tell you that your brand’s personality is reflected in the logo and that in a social media world the logo is more important than ever and that it must be the trigger to an emotional response and therefore is a key strategic imperative.
Unfortunately, far too many CEOs are seduced into believing everything they say and many are convinced that a logo or brand identity is a strategic initiative when it’s not, it’s simply one (increasingly insignificant) tactic of many that make up branding.
OK, let’s take a step back for a minute and look at one of the most recognisable logos in the world, Apple. If you Google, ‘what does the Apple logo communicate’ the top result is this page from culture creation.
If you can’t be bothered to click on the link, here’s the description, “In the Bible, Adam and Eve are tempted, by Satan, to taste the fruit from the tree of knowledge.
Eve…gives in to temptation and takes a bite of an apple. Once Adam and Eve had their first taste of knowledge, they knew that they were naked, and they were ashamed. That first bite of the apple represents the fall of man.
The apple symbol – and the Apple computers logo – symbolizes knowledge.”
The article then goes on to introduce us to the Apple as the forbidden fruit, although it could have been a pear for all we know. We learn about the significance of the Apple in Greek mythology and the article closes with:
I don’t believe a word of it even though I’m a big Apple fan. What’s important to me is the fact that Apple makes great products and the experience of dealing with Apple is nearly always memorable, for the right reasons.
I think I speak for the majority of people when I say that I really don’t have the time or the inclination to analyse the meaning of a logo when I’m deciding on which company I want to buy a product from.
And even if I did, it wouldn’t make me keep going back to that company if the product/service etc wasn’t top notch. Especially for a luxury product like Apple.
And if the logo were so important, and so much thought goes into it, then what’s going on with this billboard seen around Kuala Lumpur at the moment? Why does this billboard feature 18 logos?
Are we supposed to analyse every one of these logos to determine what exactly they mean and whether they resonate with us? All done while sitting at a traffic light when we also need to check our WhatsApp, email, missed calls and sports results?
The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, a logo is nothing more than a symbol. It certainly isn’t a brand, strategy or branding. And while symbols may resonate with our inner pagan, it’s only over time and following multiple memorable interactions with the business across numerous touchpoints, does the business gain any meaning at all.
Building that meaning is what we call branding. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t have it. It’s something that builds up over time. And while you can nurture it, you can’t determine it. That requires a clearly defined strategy, an ‘on brand’ workforce, continuous engagement and a helluva lot of luck.
There’s no shortcut to branding. But branding should be what every business is focussed on because it has multiple internal and external benefits including attracting better quality talent, products or services that sell more quickly and at higher prices, better customer relationships that increase more profitable repeat sales, blocked competition and, of course, sustained profitability.
But most CEOs don’t seem to be able to grasp this. Or perhaps they just don’t have the stamina to build a brand. Preferring the campaign over the connection, the creative over the substantial, the superficial and irrelevant metrics such as likes over relationships.
Talking of likes, social media has made the logo even more irrelevant. When businesses could control the message, too many of them lied to consumers about their products or services. Even though the logos were great, consumers became jaded and suspicious and trust was eroded. More on social media later.
Nowadays consumers ignore much of what they see or hear brands tell them. They get their inspiration not from a cool advertising campaign but from the experiences of those they know and/or respect. In 2018, Nielsen reported that 83% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.”
If all advertising includes a logo and what advertising is saying is believed by only 17% of the population, what is the point of the advertising and, by default, the logo in the advertising?
It’s normally about now that people refer me to big brands like Samsung or Nike. If you use either of these global brands, ask yourself if you would have bought them the first time if everyone you know said the products were crap. Of course you wouldn’t.
Also ask yourself if you would continue to buy them if the products were hard to find, staff in stores were rude and as a result, the experience of buying them was underwhelming. Of course you wouldn’t.
And while we’re at it, I would argue Samsung doesn’t have a logo although the purists will say it’s a logotype but whatever it is it’s not a logo like Nike or Apple but still sold US$40 billion of products in 1Q2019!
20 years ago if you wanted to buy Nike products in Malaysia, you had to find the large wire basket in the corner of Isetan or Metrojaya with a few items of clothing, a couple of pairs of trainers and little else.
If you were lucky enough to find a member of staff, they rarely knew anything about sport and often covered cosmetics and household as well as all the brands in the sports departments.
When Nike decided to take responsibility for the brand in Malaysia, they didn’t create a new logo, instead they took ownership of the experience and now have 10 flagship stores in Kuala Lumpur and at least 6 more across the country.
To make that logo even more irrelevant, consumer lives today revolve around social media. Everything consumers do is influenced by their interactions on social media.
It’s only logical then that social media has to play a pivotal role in your brand strategy. But social media isn’t a passive channel like a TV. It’s interactive and is tailor made for participation not passive acceptance of corporate driven messages. Or your logo or your identity.
The great thing about social media is that it allows businesses to leverage word of mouth and to a wider audience far more quickly than ever before. But this takes time, resources and the right investment and commitment.
Most businesses are too lazy to do it properly. Or perhaps they are seduced by the creative agency sales pitch. As a result they use social media just like another media channel and despite the fact that consumers don’t trust them, still try to tell those consumers what they want them to hear.
They think they can manufacture a brand in the same way as businesses did in the past, often through a cool brand identity and logo.
But for so much better educated consumers who spend so much of their time on social media where content is distributed via titles and headings, screen grabs or personal shares, the logo no longer has a significant role to play in defining the brand.
It doesn’t matter who designed it or what meaning it has, the logo has become irrelevant. In much the same way as DVDs, CDs, audio tapes and many other tools from similar eras.
So if you are looking to rebrand your business and you have invited agencies or consultancies to present to you, I strongly recommend that don’t be dazzled by the creative images or past brand identities because those are not what is going to make your rebrand a success.
Focus instead on their processes and systems to review your brand internally, identify gaps or pinpoint weak spots in your brand experiences. Focus on their approach to collecting and using data.
Their approach to retaining not acquiring customers and how they will communicate with them once they are retained.
Focus on their understanding of the nuances of social media and how they will accelerate your online narrative. Don’t be seduced by how many logos they’ve created for businesses in your sector. Or on the promises about how your new logo will be seen by millions of people daily.
Focus instead on how they are going to spend hours nurturing your brand through every touchpoint every time.