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Branding: It’s Not Just for Cattle

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This post is originally published in The Jerusalem Post, April 2003. So why posting such an old article? … Because the information in this article is still very actual!

They surround you all day every day: … logos. From the moment you uncap the toothpaste in the morning, until you set your alarm clock at night, virtually every object you see is emblazoned with a company logo.

Why?

Do we, as consumers, really care whether our toothpaste is manufactured by Colgate or by Brand X? It would seem we do, even though both products are white, minty and get our teeth reasonably clean. Or consider the cola wars. Many of us maintain a distinct preference for a particular brand. But how many — if blind-folded and forced to take a taste test — would be able to correctly identify our favorite from among a half-dozen others, all of which consist of fizzy water mixed with the same main ingredients in about the same proportions? Not many. So why the loyalty to a particular brands?

And, of more immediate concern to you as the owner of a business, how can you present your own company on the Web as a unique “brand” — that will stand out among the many competitors offering similar products or services?

It’s a vast topic, encompassing many related issues: visual identity, market niches, promotion methods, consumer loyalty, etc. This article will address one small, but vital, component of visual identity: logos.

The entire design of a Web site often takes its visual cue from the appearance of the company’s logo. A business logo is a typographical mark intended to convey not only the name of a company, but also its character. A quick glance should convey the nature of the company that the logo represents. (If your company or organization does not yet have a logo — or if the one it has seems so old-fashioned or unsuitable that you want it redone — have it designed before you begin creating your Web site or as an additional component of the site design.)

branding-iron

Here are some radical distinctions, just to get you started thinking:

  • Formal or playful?
  • Upscale or economy-minded?
  • Traditional or modern?

A company manufacturing a product that is formal, upscale, and traditional (for example, a luxury sedan) will have a logo that is markedly different from a company producing a cheap, faddish toy. And indeed the Mercedes-Benz logo is not easily confused with the Mattel logo. Even if you were to substitute the words “Brand X” for the company names in both these logos, there would still be no mistaking which is suitable for each company.

These distinctions are shown through choices in:

  • Color
  • Typeface
  • Pictorial symbol (optional; many logos consist of a logotype unaccompanied by a symbol)

What should you bear in mind when choosing a logo for your company? These are a few of the major considerations:

  • It should be unique enough to stand out from the competition.
  • It should be complex enough to make duplication/forgery difficult. In other words, don’t use a simple square in a primary color next to the name set in Word’s default font.
  • It should be simple enough that it will be clear and legible in:
    ~ black & white (print ads, Yellow Pages directories),
    ~ small sizes (business cards),
    ~ poor resolution (faxes), and
    ~ from a distance (signage)

Once you’ve settled on a logo, use it effectively. Your logo should appear on all pages of your Web site as well as on all office collateral (business cards, letterheads and envelopes, faxes, invoices, etc.) and any promotional material (magnets, pens, notepads, etc.) — and don’t forget to also print your Web site URL on all these items! Naturally, all these elements should harmonize visually.

A few other issues to consider:

  • Make sure that you purchase all logo rights from your designer.
  • If your logo is designed by a Web designer, make sure that you will receive digital files in a program suitable for print applications (usually Freehand or Illustrator). A web-ready logo is not suitable for print.
  • If you already have a logo — and some degree of brand awareness in the marketplace — think twice before deciding to replace it. It may not be worthwhile to confuse present customers just for the sake of a “prettier” or “cooler” image. Instead, make the most of what you have by reinforcing the current logo with a more systematically coordinated application of colors, fonts, etc. (On the other hand, it’s sometimes possible to apply subtle, but important, modifications without sacrificing brand awareness. Many major companies periodically refresh their logos in this manner.)
  • Tag-lines, or slogans, are sometimes incorporated into a logo. This can help when the company name (for example if it’s named after people: “Cohen Brothers”) gives no clue to the nature of the business.
  • A special consideration for Israeli companies: You probably want something that will be identifiable in foreign languages, as well as in Hebrew. While a ligature (a logo composed only of interconnected letters — often initials) can be an elegant solution for an English-name company, a Hebrew ligature would be unintelligible in the international sphere.
  • Whatever you choose as your logo, please don’t include a “swoosh”! This symbol has become such a cliché that it’s a source of lampooning. Some enterprising individuals have dedicated articles and even entire Web sites to cataloging “swooshed” logos.

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Consistency is the key to successfully using a logo as part of your branding efforts. Choose the best logo you can, then apply it — and your Web site URL — to every item that leaves your office.

(originally published in The Jerusalem Post, April 2003)

 

Author: Jan Rajtoral

Jan Rajtoral AKA Gonzo the Great is the Founder of and Designer at gonzodesign, providing design services across the full spectrum of Brand Identity, Graphic Design, Print and Advertising Design & Website Design.

5 comments

on this article: “Branding: It’s Not Just for Cattle”
  1. Hi John,

    thanks for your visit and comment. Cheers & Ciao …

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