Snapshot : The weird world of brand logo design. Where time and money spent on logos can be disproportionate to how much consumers actually care. We highlight two recent examples from Cadbury and from brands using their logo to highlight social distancing. We close by sharing the three jobs that logos do for consumers – to introduce, to identify and to differentiate your brand.
The weird world of brand logo design
The world of brand logo designs is a very weird one when you think about it. When you create a new brand or take over an existing brand, you attach a tremendous amount of thinking and meaning to your logo. It’s the front and centre symbol of your brand identity after all. A simple signal to your target audience who you are and what you represent.
And whether you spend thousands of dollars on swanky graphic design agencies, or hire a freelancer for a few bucks of fiverr.com, you’ll still likely go through a fairly standard logo design process to get to the same end result.
An arrangement of text, shapes and colours that becomes a symbol of who you are. Used on packaging. Websites. Advertisements, It’s even there on your business card.
And then having spent all that time (and possibly money) to come out with your logo, two things happen.
If you are bigger sized company, you make a big song and dance about the logo through public relations and digital media. And then you find out that very few people actually care about your damn logo.
And then you leave your logo alone for years because marketing people are conditioned to drive recognition through consistent repetition and that generally, means, not fucking around with your logo.
It’s a bit like getting a new haircut when you are eighteen. And realising most other people don’t really care about your haircut. But then never changing that haircut ever again, because how would people recognise you without that haircut? (This analogy also works with tattoos if that’s your thing).
Now, we do see the value in brand identity consistency. But like haircuts, logos can and should evolve to reflect the times. Our mullet is a long-forgotten memory for example.
Cadbury’s new brand logo
This week’s post on blog was inspired by the fact that we’ve seen not one but two stories on logos in the past few weeks. That’s logo news stores turning up like buses. Except people care about the bus turning up. We don’t believe many people are sitting around waiting for news about new logos.
The first story was about Cadbury’s and their release of their re-release of the Marble chocolate bar in Australia, that features the first update to the logo in 50 years. You can read about it here.
Cadbury’s brand identity is a strong one. We all recognise the purple and gold block when we go down the supermarket aisle. And to be honest, when you look at the changes they’ve made, the changes to the logo are relatively minor.
It’s flat rather than at an angle. The font looks a little thinner, they change the lighting effect on it. Something a little weird has gone on with the letter ‘b’. And the product name is clearly now flat rather than wavy and in a different font.
We can imagine the conversations that went on.
Brand teams, design agency, market researchers asking for consumer feedback. We’re sure there were lots of debates and worried discussions. All very normal on big brands.
But two things really stand out for us.
It’s fine, but …
Firstly, there’s probably some piece of research somewhere in Cadbury’s that shows an increase in Purchase Intent for the new logo.
But think about where and how most people buy the products. Grabbed from near the till at the newsagent. Thrown in the trolley when faced with an overwhelming amount of chocolate choices in the supermarket aisle.
We bet 99.9% of consumers wouldn’t even notice the change unless you pointed it out to them. How much time and effort went into something that consumers will not care a jot about?
And secondly, if you doubt how much effort went into the logo design, just read what the company had to say about it.
“The new elevated packaging includes a redrawn wordmark, new iconography and typography, making the look and feel more natural, authentic and high quality,” a company spokesperson said.
“The revitalisation of the Cadbury wordmark drew inspiration from the hand of founder John Cadbury himself to create a beautifully crafted signature with a more contemporary feel.”
What a load of pretentious marketing wank.
… who’s it for anyway?
It’s very weird that this got out in public. How many consumers really give a toss about the authenticity of the signature? Really? This statement was much more designed for those who work in specialised logo and graphic design agencies.
While we recognise that there’s a skill and an art involved in logo design, we are always very suspicious of those who get involved in it too closely, that they are really just trying to bump up the value of their expertise and services to gullible brand managers.
Look at this review of the new Cadbury’s logo for example.
The commentary on this is fair, actually not too wanky, but just look at all those materials and especially the video which accompanies it. How much did that cost and how long did that take? For what?
As the reviewer notes, for something consumers probably won’t notice.
Social distancing logos
Our other recent logo story was related to the (temporary) changes big companies are making to their logos to encourage social distancing. We’re trying not to mention the C-word by the way, it’s way over-used at the moment.
Check out this story and see what the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Audi have done with their logos.
There is an element of cleverness to the design work here, don’t get us wrong.
But we can’t help feeling these brands are using the situation as an opportunity to bump up their brand equity. And while that’s by no means a terrible move, it’s not particularly helpful either.
These brands would do much better focussing on delivering tangible help to people (which to be fair many businesses are doing) and leaving smart-arse tactical bandwagon jumping like this alone.
Mark Ritson, well-know rogue marketing professor made the same point in his informative and funny (and a bit long) webinar on marketing during the C-word last week.
The concept that brand managers think their brand is way more important to consumers than consumers do is an important one, and it’s particularly pertinent when you look at the role that logos play for consumers.
The three jobs a logo must do for consumers
In our experience, logos (and by association packaging design) have three roles for consumers.
If it’s a completely brand new product, the logo can help the consumer identity what the product is and what is does. Having some sort of symbol of what the product is in the logo – brilliant. Cadbury’s glass and a half does this job. So, logo job number one is an introducer to the brand.
If it’s an existing product, the job of the logo is to help consumers find it quicker. In the supermarket. In the bar. On the e-commerce website. Recognition and remembering the logo serves as a short-cut for consumers and makes brands stand-out and be distinctive. Job number two is an identifier. Every product in the range, every touchpoint should share that consistent reference point.
And finally, if the product has multiple formats, or launches innovation and brand extensions, then the logo can help to both unify the brand across all the products but also distinguish between the different elements in the range. So final job for logos is to act as a differentiator.
Logos, logos everywhere
Logos are everywhere when you start to look.
But here’s the thing to consider. How many people are actually looking for a logo? More specifically, how many people are looking for your logo. And when and where are they looking for it?
The thing to consider with logos is always those three jobs for the consumer, and the context in which they will be seen.
We wanted to close off with a much less well-known example, The Water Shop, which we spotted in a nearby neighbourhood.
It’s a shop that sells, well, you can probably figure it out from the picture.
Thankfully, the threat of drought (and fire) is a bit of a distant memory for now (until next time), but if we did need to go find somewhere to look for equipment related to water and water services, we’re pretty sure we’d give this place a go.
The blue colour and that use of the tap for the ’t’ is everything a logo needs to be. It tells us what the brand is (introducer) and what it does and why we might need it (identifier). And the design is distinct and unique enough that we’d remember it versus competitors (differentiator).
Simple, but we’re sure highly effective.
So whatever your dealings with the weird world of logos, remember this.
Logos have three jobs to do – to introduce, to identify and to differentiate. But outside that, very few people outside a bunch of graphic design nerds will actually care what your logo looks like.