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Logo Schmogo

  |  March 26, 2003   |  Comments

Spending months trying to get your logo just right ? You might be suffering from logoitis.

Not long ago, one of my marketing class students came to me puffed with pride. She said she'd been working 'round the clock for weeks, creating a new logo for her company. After marathon sessions with management and multiple consultants, the logo was ready to be unveiled. "It's breathtaking," she sighed. "It is truly symbolic of our company's history, its founders, and its vision for tomorrow."

Concerned about my poor student, I studied the four-color madness on the page and peered into her glassy eyes. "My dear," I said, "I think you have contracted a serious case of logoitis."

Beware. Logoitis pervades marketing departments across the country. Its symptoms are undeniable. Normally reasonable people spend months -- sometimes years -- tinkering with a symbol. Results are often tragic. Thousands of dollars are wasted on a graphic of no meaning to anyone except a few eager marketing folks and graphic designers.

On the Web, logoitis is rampant. It frequently hits the moment users visit a site. If logos aren't plastered all over the page, they're dancing and spinning in some prominent location. Even worse are those sites that employ company logos as cute navigation buttons.

The cure for logoitis? It's not ditching the corporate seal entirely (graphic designers still need to be employed). It does require becoming less manic about something that's merely a symbol of the brand value promised to customers. Here are my recommendations:

  • Don't use complicated graphics. Follow the big guys (IBM and he Gap, for example) that don't use a symbol at all. Four-color, heavily styled graphics are difficult to replicate in print. On the Web, they can be difficult to load.

  • Don't overthink symbolism. No matter what Enron's E-on-its-side was supposed to mean, we all know what it became (it inspired a TV movie on Enron called "The Crooked E"). If you must have a graphic, make sure it's simple and open to just one interpretation.

  • Don't assume everyone knows your symbol. There are a few exceptions to this rule (McDonald's and Nike may be excused). Generally, a logo graphic must be accompanied by the actual name of the company (see the first tip). Despite how much you adore it, your corporate symbol is probably not top of mind to most consumers.

  • Don't spend five months working on a logo. I've seen whole marketing departments come to an absolute halt because the logo hasn't been perfected. Better to spend time getting the word out about your product or service.

  • Don't think a great logo will make a sale. A great logo may be pleasant to look at. A spinning logo on a Web page may be cool. Chances are, it won't make a sale. Marketers need to communicate the superlatives of their products or services. "We have a really cool logo" isn't a convincing superlative.

  • Remember you're the client. Graphic designers are indispensable, but many need a firmer grip on reality. Be more than a little skeptical when your designer starts talking about the emotion of the logo design. If your gut says you still can't make head or tail of the design, nor can you read the name of the company, you're probably not alone.

  • Take your logo ideas out of the boardroom. Don't rely on internal committees to dictate what works. Simple feedback sessions or online surveys with your target audience will help you see the light. Chances are they'll give you much better feedback than your internal critics and spend far less time haggling over your logo's look.

  • Appoint the logo police. Once you have created your logo, there's a natural inclination to plaster it around the world. Appoint someone with enough authority to limit use of the logo and blow the whistle when it's being used inappropriately.

Finally, remember why you're posting a Web site in the first place. It's not to show off your pretty logo... really. Content sells the brand, folks. Focus on your organization's superlatives, keep the content informative, listen to reader feedback, and update content frequently. Not only will you add strength to your brand, you'll also be cured of logoitis.

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Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon is the executive director of marketing and public relations for Memorial Health Services, a five-hospital health system in Southern California. In this capacity, she manages promotional activities for both traditional and new media. Susan is also a marketing communications instructor at the University of California, Irvine; California State University, Fullerton; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

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