You’ve heard it said many times before . . . “image is everything”, and it couldn’t be more true. Whether you are a small company or a large one, creating the proper image for your company or product is vital to long-term success as well as first impressions that don’t let go.
With an overwhelming and unlimited amount of information at our fingertips, today more than any other time in history, your image not only more critical, but it has also never been more obtainable. There is really no excuse to not have a quality logo and brand built for whatever it is that you are trying to sell.
Would you prefer to have an image like an exotic sports car, or a run-of-the-mill economy sedan? The answer seems clear enough, but why do so many companies settle for less than extraordinary?
Top 5 Reasons Companies/People Settle for a Satisfactory Brand:
- COST – Sure, this used to be a good reason. Back in the day when you had to hire an ad agency, who then created a focus group, who then determined a demographic, thus involving a storyboard artist, a round of compositions from various professional artists, a campaign specialist, an account manager, the overhead of lofty salaries and a fancy building downtown. Hard-costs generating physical proofs and prints, the fancy “Reveal” etc. etc. This is no longer the same game, today most agencies have packages to meet nearly any budget and doing it right the first time is always the best way to go. Yes, it’s still a great idea to run a focus group, or at least some minimal demographic and psychographic research ahead of time to make sure you are targeting the correct audience and making your brand have the appropriate look and feel, and Yes,cost plays a huge factor 5 or 10 years into your existence when you have letterhead, signage, advertising, websites and social media channels all using the old logo that cousin Steve created in Art class, but cost should never be a factor or an excuse to do it right the first time. In fact, many companies that spend millions of dollars in advertising each year will attest that creating a new brand or changing a brand is on average up to 6 times more expensive than creating the brand the first time around YET THEY STILL REBRAND, that should give you a pretty decent idea how important brand is. My advice on what to spend is simple, first figure a maximum budget you are willing to start this process of having a logo designed, ask your potential designers how they go about the process and chose the best person for the job. (of course look at samples, looking for diversity of style and variation of looks and feels).
- IGNORANCE – yes, we all know it is bliss, but at what cost? Many companies and people are in all fairness unwillingly ignorant about building a proper brand . . . they are either too busy or too focused on building their business and process that they don’t know how to go about building a good solid brand, and how easy it is. In addition, they may not realize the importance behind it. To quote Michael Gerber, many companies begin from an “Entrepreneurial Seizure” . . . that is, they have a talent or special skill combined with just enough passion for making the leap into starting a business, but they lack the well-rounded skills to create a business the right way. (this applies more often to small businesses and sole proprietors). Start with a good plan, and know your options, building a great brand does not require rocket science, just a little insight, and creativity.
- LAZINESS – AKA Willing Ignorance – yes this is not always intentional, but it is much easier to consider your brand just another start-up task and just let the bookkeeper take care of the problem (who is also the receptionist, office manager, and maybe even relative of the owner). After all, that is how cousin Steve got involved in the first place, after all, He is quite “Artsy” and knows how to use Microsoft Paint. It’s easy to laugh now, but you would be surprised even how many large companies have brands that were sub-par. Most likely because they began as a small company, and grew to something large without ever thinking twice about the brand, and either they never really had a logo so some form of word art evolved into what the have today, or they took the path of least resistance in the beginning.
- CONSISTENCY – I realize that reasons 2 thru 5 could all be lumped into the same”Ignorance” Category, but then I wouldn’t have the Top 5 reasons, and only 2 top reasons doesn’t sound as good, but this particular issue is another highly common one. I have noticed in the last 20 years of doing this, that a surprisingly large number of companies simply don’t know how to keep track of what they would consider the “official company logo”. Many years back, my coworkers and I counted at least 8 different logos for one of the largest Kitchen & Bath remodeling companies in our town. I called the company and asked for a copy of their logo to build an ad, and they said “we don’t have one, call the newspaper”. I then called the newspaper and they replied “We got ours from XYZ printing company”, I then called XYZ printing and they said, “Oh, we just made one because we could never find one too”. This was the largest company of it’s kind in our home town, the owner had a private airplane, a huge office with an espresso machine (this was 10 years ago) and a fancy large screen plasma TV (back when Plasma’s were the thing), yet nobody in the entire company knew what the official logo looked like, nor where to get a copy of it. Today it’s even easier than ever to have one central location where you have the official logo of your brand, and for al little more effort, you can create a simple style guide that has any rule you want people to follow when using your logo. Having one location helps ensure that old versions of your logo don’t get used as often. It is difficult to manage an unknown public, but at least if the people within your own organization know how to get and properly use your official logo then that is a good start. Consider some of the following ways to store your logo in one location:
- Cloud Storage: companies like Amazon, Google, Box.com, all have online storage solutions that can be used to keep only one set of logo assets. My personal favorite is DropBox. One simple right-click and you have a link you can send people with your logo that is stored on your computer, but is safely synced on DropBox cloud. Linking to the folder is even better, change the logo the folder link stays the same, if anyone needs the logo, they have the link and can access it at any time. This is especially great for internal distribution.
- Website Storage – If you find that you often distribute your logo to a large number of recipients and want to maintain control, create a simple location on your own website that has a zip file containing all necessary logo versions and your brand style guide. Secure this location with a simple contact form and now you have a list of everyone who has downloaded the file. 5 years from now, that list can be turned into a blast-email notifying everyone who has your logo that there is a new one and certain requirements must be followed.
- PRIDE- You knew this one had to come up eventually. Pride, the mother of all sins, pride shows its ugly face in vast number of creative ways, and your brand is not exempt. Some of my least favorite logos I have created over the years were a simple result of a client not trusting me as an expert and letting their pride (and the fact that they are paying the bill) take over. If you hire an expert, especially one who has been in business for 10 or more years, why not listen to them? Would you go to the cardiologist and make recommendations on how they proceed with your open heart surgery? Not unless you too were a cardiologist, and chances are, unlike cardiology, if you are a branding expert, then you don’t need to hire one. Don’t let your opinions about what a logo should look like trump the expertise. Your opinions of course matter, but listen to the experts, maybe they have some insight you have not considered, Maybe your company name also needs help, the tagline, positioning statement etc. Consider who your customer is and research (if your expert isn’t already doing it) what types of things your customer likes, the brands they buy, the places they hang out, where they live, the cars they own, etc. (its okay to do a little cyber stalking for this purpose). But, what if you don’t know this type of information? Demographics are an old-school concept that still have HUGE relevancy today. Most agencies or those who create logos, SHOULD know how to obtain this type of information and shame on them if they don’t even try. You can also buy this information from providers like Cubit, or you can try to find information on your own. The following are viable sources of free demographic data:
- United States Census Bureau – they have been doing it for ever, and although their information can be a little out of date (depending on how often a census is run) they are an excellent free resource to determine important thing such as average income for a specific city, ethnicity and gender distribution, etc. Also MANY other providers get some of their information from here anyway.
- infoplease – a free simple way to get some basic facts. I think they actually just repackage the US census info in a different way.
- CIA – Excellent resource if you are doing any work abroad, you can learn a lot about another country and help you better position a global brand/product
- Social Media – Have you ever wondered or wished you knew what people are thinking? Well, now you can, and one thing you can’t do is get people to shut up. The world of social media has created a massive stream of consciousness at our disposal. Just search on Twitter or Facebook, Instagram etc, and you can truly know what your customers are thinking,(and probably things you wish you didn’t know). Facebook, for example, has some new and extremely powerful search capabilities. Did you know that according to Facebook, one of the top activities in Oakland California is cuddling? Neither did I until I looked. These are some of the crazy interesting tidbits of knowledge you can glean from social media channels.