Developing your company’s image is about much more than just establishing a product or raking in thousands of Facebook fans. A company’s logo is often the first thing a customer sees when “meeting” a business, and the design you choose quickly becomes the face of your company. Even if you have a definite vision for how your logo should look, mistakes can happen—even to the big guys.
Clothing retail giant Gap (Stock Quote: GPS) received overwhelmingly negative feedback in 2010 when it changed its iconic blue box logo to a more modern text. Due to public outcry, Gap switched back to its old image less than three weeks after rolling out its “improved” look. Although the company didn’t disclose how many millions were spent on the redesign—or how many millions were lost when it returned to the familiar one—other corporations including Pepsi (Stock Quote: PEP), Accenture (Stock Quote: ACN) and BP (Stock Quote: BP) are all rumored to have spent upwards of $1 million on logo redesign.
Thankfully, a solid logo can be created for much less, and experts say there’s a lot to be learned from the mistakes others have made. When it’s time to consider a facelift for your brand, here are some things to consider:
1.) You may not need a completely new logo—think about a logo “refreshing.”
“Companies like Coca-Cola (Stock Quote: KO), BMW and GE (Stock Quote: GE) have all ‘morphed’ or modified their brand’s logo, while staying true to their origins,” says Cody Tesnow, Associate Creative Director at Neighbor Agency. “Starbucks modernized by reducing their old logo, which is becoming a popular trend, taking a piece of the old, and making it the new.”
Tesnow says it's okay to revisit old ideas and appropriate aspects you love when considering a redesign.
“It’s okay to start your sketch stage with a random font search. Try it all.”
There is no rule that you have to change your logo entirely in order to “freshen” your company, says Josh Mabus, owner and founder of design firm The Mabus Agency in Tupelo, Ms.
“Your logo is part of your outward branding," he says. "You can always change your outward brand image with the same logo by altering the color scheme or fonts you use.”
No matter where your logo design process takes you, Chris Graves, Chief Creative Officer of Los Angeles-based advertising agency Team One, says to keep in mind that the brand itself is the only thing that really matters.
“Remember that a brand is not a logo—a brand is the sum total of a unique set of experiences that live in the minds of consumers.”
2.) Don’t make a change unless people you trust support your decision.
In other words, don’t change your company’s logo simply because your new graphic designer told you it was a good idea.
“A change shouldn't be made unless the business owner, board of directors, or other governing body is for it,” says Mabus. “A logo should embody the brand, and the brand is the company itself. The company should always be the one to make the decision, not an outsider.”
As tempting as it might be to give your logo a “fresh look,” the need for a redesign should come from your target consumer—especially if you have an established business, says David Sorkin, Principal at New Frontier Marketing Associates, a small business marketing firm in Millburn, NJ.
“For example, if your products or services are being misrepresented by your logo, a redesign may provide a way to attract new, targeted clients. However, if your existing customers are comfortable with your current logo, you could scare them away—and sacrifice your hard-earned brand equity—by changing it,” Sorkin says.
“If you’re really curious about your logo, don’t be afraid to hold an informal focus group with some of your customers. It could provide more insight going into the project, and potentially help you avoid a disaster,” he adds.
3.) Make sure your logo does more than just “stand out."
“It is much more important to accurately communicate your brand than to simply stand out from the crowd,” says Mabus. “Bank of America could stand out with a clown getting a pie in the face on their logo, but it just wouldn't represent the brand. Be effective by being relevant.”
With that said, it’s still important for a logo to attract clients.
“A logo should not only look good, but also capture the viewer’s attention in a relevant, meaningful way,” says Sorkin. “A good designer will take you through a creative brief, where you’ll identify the key messages and emotions you want your logo to convey. If the design resonates with the brief, then your logo will stand out for the right strategic reasons.”
Another way to make a logo pop is to keep current trends in mind, says Rob Stone, VP of Licensing at Excel Corporation.
“You should always keep trends in music, fashion and popular culture in mind, and incorporate those details into your logo. There are many aspects of a successful logo, and they all need to be in keeping with current styles. Otherwise, you risk showing your age, thus defeating the whole purpose,” he says.
4.) Know when you’re spending too much—or not enough.
A logo can cost anywhere from $5 to $50,000 or more, depending on your needs and resources, says Sorkin.
“Remember—you get what you pay for. A $75 logo usually looks like a $75 logo. For a small business, a distinguished, professional logo with an experienced designer could typically cost in the $700 - $1,000 range. If you take the time to find a designer with a strong portfolio and a good understanding of your brand, then you won’t overpay,” he says.
With that said, your logo is your “lifeline,” and it’s hard to put a price on getting it right, says Stone.
“This isn’t an answer that most people want to hear, but the truth is, you can never spend too much on your logo,” he says. “Your logo is a condensed representation of everything your company stands for.”
5.) Avoid anything that will make your logo look “dated.”
“Avoid the temptation of following trends,” says Graves. “Look for a timeless solution, so you don’t have to repeat the exercise too soon. A brand that’s constantly changing runs the risk of confusing its customers.”
If you get too trendy, you run the risk of going out of style much more quickly, says Stone.
“You still want people to see your brand as being consistent, trustworthy and standing the test of time," he says.
Be wary—sometimes it can be difficult to spot the difference between something that is simply popular and something that may lend credibility to your brand, says Michelle Adelson, Chief Brand Strategist at Phelps, a marketing agency in Santa Monica, California.
“Take time to understand the difference between a real trend—like shifts in the market towards natural products—and a fad, which would be something more like the popularity of emerald tones during autumn,” Adelson says.