Going Loco for Logos

You have just opened your business and are about to place your first ad in the newspaper or Yellow Pages. The rep requests you if you have a logo. Gulp. A logo? You panic and realize you have to have one and fast. After all, every business has a logo and look how successful they have become. Check out Coke, Microsoft, Honda, Wal-Mart, and the list goes on and on. So you grab the local directory and pick a graphic designer or ad agency and get moving. Thousands of dollars later, you present the new logo to your ad rep and are well on your way to success, fame and fortune. After all, now you have a logo.

Let's back up. Take a look at the process where a business is born and think about the timeline. When Bill Gates began tooling with operating systems for Microsoft, did he start by designing a logo? If you look at the first Coca-Cola logos, you would not even recognize them today. Other companies simply returned to their initials such as RCA, IBM, or UPS in a slightly distinct typeface. You see, their focus was actually on the business, rather than the public's perception. Later, they would hire advertising agencies to do the promotion and, if warranted, promote their logo.

Can a logo build a brand and make the company more money? Of course it can. Branding is a huge business in itself. It's been proven in surveys that people remember certain logos better than past Presidents or world capitals. But these international symbols took time to be established and the company became successful on its on merits first. They built a following and customer base before marketing the logo as their representative. If Nike had begun with their stylized 'V' followed by their slogan, 'Just Do It,' how would anyone know what they were selling?

I have been an advertising consultant to thousands of businesses and designed hundreds of logos. I've never seen an awful business made better with an award-winning logo. Conversely, I've seen many successful businesses that thrived for decades without any logo at all. Most of them used their name in a variety of type styles that were easily read and, instead, communicated the nature of the company. "Fred's Fine Custom Homes," or "XYZ Creative Web Design," still gets the message across.

It all depends on your market and purpose. If you are a small, local business, with customers located within your city, having a logo probably serves no real purpose, other than giving you a unique identity. If you do a lot of mixed-media advertising, such as TV, radio, and news, the logo can help tie your promotions together and create a branding awareness. For example, if a business called, "Party Heaven," uses a red balloon with angel wings on it's signage, it's smart to carry that logo through all it's advertising. Also, a company with a national scope that has multiple locations or a country-wide franchise, needs to have a consistent theme that's aided by a well-conceived logo and color scheme.

But the local plumber or air conditioner repair service mostly often does not require a cute or complicated logo, to satisfify their customers. They can simply market and offer good service to build their client base. Especially when there are hundreds of plumbers, all using a wrench or pipe as a logo in the Yellow Pages. There obviously must have been a run on clip art that day. I knew one that actually used a toilet with something dark floating in the bowl in their ads. Ergo, a lousy logo can actually hurt a business's image.

So, to summarize, a logo is something that derives a well-implemented business plan. It can enhance and establish the company's image. But it should not be relied upon for attracting customers or making up for a weak product or service. After all, when all is said and done, it's still a miniature piece of artwork. You can look at one of my creations by going to thenurseschoice.com and check out their logo. It's the lamp of knowledge and well known to most nurses. In the meantime, consider your business and what a logo can do for you. And if you're a plumber, pipe down.