The Perfect Logo: Balancing Color and Brand Recognition

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Marketing. It’s a word we hear constantly, especially in a world where we strive to promote ourselves, our products and services, and our brand. It’s in the forefront of every board member’s mind when a push for growth emerges or when they’re considering changing the credit union’s look to increase value. Marketing is your avenue to success, and a big driver in this scenario is the value of your brand’s logo.

Your logo is everything. It’s the source of your recognition. With enough recognition, you don’t even need to say who you are. Take the golden arches of McDonald’s, the intertwining circles of Audi, or the Apple…apple. They don’t even need to add color to their logos for the world to know who they are. But what goes into a good logo? How would you start making one?

Step 1: Color

Before anything else, your brand colors are the source. The human mind recognizes a splash of red or blue before it recognizes shapes. T-mobile is pink. State Farm is red. Ford is blue. If these colors are adjusted, it’ll feel foreign at best and unrecognizable at worst.

Once you have established your colors, it becomes incredibly difficult to rebrand. To change from red to yellow, Target would need to spend millions of dollars ensuring consumers would recognize their new brand, and even then, it would take years for people to stop associating the company with red.

The amount of science behind the variations of colors and hues influencing the mind of the viewer can be an entire school of thought as is. In simple terms, your mood and perception of the entity you are looking at can be influenced by colors. It is why people find specific art shocking or sad, invigorating or stale. There’s material all over the web explaining in boundless detail how the shade #FF1F1F incites violence, anger, or can be used to stand strong against a sea of branding.

Furthermore, these influences often happen subconsciously. You don’t look at your grocery store sign and think, “those colors work well,” you look at your grocery store and think, “this place has better produce than the other place.” Therefore, your brand needs to have a color scheme that follows two very important rules: it needs to be welcoming to your audience and it needs to portray the values and atmosphere of the brand.

What are your colors? What do your colors say about you and what you’re trying to sell? I might not consciously think that exact question, but a little voice in the back of my head might say, “I don’t think we’re comfortable investing in this” if the colors feel off. I see so many smaller brands not understand this concept, various local communities that can’t seem to attract attention to their hidden oases over booming industries with bigger buildings and louder signs. Let your voice be heard in the crowd.

Step 2: Content

You have your colors, so now what?

This is where your purpose is visualized. You have limited space to sell your entire brand, and consumers will only give you a second of their time to do so. You need to do something that causes them to make a connection—a thought in their head linking to a static image of what you are. Your logo triggers that connection and can determine whether that is a positive or negative response. Marketing is psychological. Remembering that is vital to gaining brand recognition and appreciation.

So what should your logo be? Will it be your name in bold letters like Abercrombie & Fitch? A symbol or shape to lock down, like the Nike Swish? An icon like Starbucks? A mix of all that, like Burger King?

Although this is a subjective analysis, we can pull traits from these various brands that are so successful and apply them to our own branding. I’m not saying go out and take the Uber logo and flip it upside down for your store called “jeqn.” I’m saying think about how these successful brands promote their logo. What catches your eye? What makes it look different as a concept? If you were to take your completed logo and mix it in a police lineup with everyone else’s ideas around it, how fast could you identify your perpetrator?

Asking yourself questions from the consumer perspective can be an essential tool when making your next decision, regardless of if it’s on the subject of marketing or the details of the services you are actually selling.

What do I think makes a great logo? Thanks for asking!

Simplicity is my number one rule, but I also share a bias for minimalism that I’ll attempt to hide. When deciding what to put for your logo, there are a few main points that need to be considered.

Let’s say I have a brand in need of a logo: Best Synthetic Petrichor Manufacturing and Consultation Services. A name this long might not look so swell written out in text (not talking about brand names here). Your potential customers might not have enough time to focus and read the full brand as they pass by or before you lose their attention and their eyes have hopped to the next thing in their path. Use your favorite internet browsing tool *ahem* and search for the most famous or successful brand logos. Did you notice that most of them contain one or zero words? There’s a reason for that. That’s why it’s “IBM” and not “International Business Machines Corporation” in blue stripes on the logo.

Creating a recognizable icon can be fickle. You need to find the line between “this looks just like everything else in my brand’s field” and “will anyone know what this is supposed to be?” What makes or breaks a good logo is heavily weighed on independent taste, but make sure it’s something you’re comfortable seeing everywhere.

Step 3: Blasting

You now have an incredible logo, one so fashionable that if you put it on a shirt, everyone would wear it. So what do you do with it?

You show it. That’s all.

Your brand needs to be tagged on everything you intend to sell. Sure, anyone with some budget can send an image to be thrown on a billboard, but it goes much deeper than that. Is your billboard in the right neighborhood? Will your target audience see it? Even deeper, is it even facing the right direction? If you have a brick-and-mortar location for your brand, you might want to advertise to people as they’re leaving the city toward the suburbs on their way home from work, where they might stop and pick up what you are selling. It beats promoting to someone who has eight hours of other things to worry about first before even acknowledging you exist.

It’s not just the billboards. It’s everything. It’s the pens with your name on them that people will inevitably pocket and use for years (or until they are stolen by someone else). It’s the top left corner of your website on every single one of your 200 posts.

Unless you are painting the walls of your establishment with your logo a million times over, you can’t really overdo this part (unless that’s your whole point!). Repetition for recognition is a staple in subliminal messaging marketing. Most Americans can identify a McDonald’s a mile away with the big golden arches because they’ve already seen a million of them.

This doesn’t happen overnight though. You cannot have any expectations that a potential customer will ever see your brand without an influence on your part. So what do you do? The solution for this one is pretty obvious: networking, social media, word of mouth, promotions, flashing lights and loud noises, etc. Slap stickers everywhere with your logo on it (please check your local laws before attempting). Your brand only exists as much as you create it in its initial stages, and the dirty work needs to be done by hand before people will market your brand for you.

It’s not easy to change

Remember that once your brand is recognized, wiping the slate clean and starting anew is not a simple process. The quality of your products and services is immediately reflected in your logo. You do not want the next passerby thinking about how bad previous experiences were by being exposed to your branding. A logo is merely a visual representation of your business and needs to be accurately portrayed to satisfy both client and business.

Have a different opinion on what makes a logo great? Share it with us!

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