Your name and your logo are the essential seeds of your brand identity. No brand strategy can really get off the ground without these essential elements of identity. Start-ups need to build the brand foundation to power the growth-stage company they will one day be.
Your brand is your most powerful behavior change tool. If you’re disrupting a category, building a new one, promoting a new way of doing things, building subscriptions, memberships, community or a habit, then you’re in the business of behavior change.
Branding for behavior change is different. It’s tools for the present and tools for the long road, for each stage of the customer journey.
That said, it hard for me to imagine “no logo.”
Of course, the company will have a name. If the company has a name, you will need to represent the name in some way. Anyway you choose to represent the name will appear as “the logo.”
If you don’t designate a way of representing the name then you might use whatever typeface you’re working in at any given time to represent the logo.
Apple. Think different.
Nike. Just do it.
DiMassimo Goldstein. Inspiring Action.
This variability will be, in effect, your logo. And, it’s pretty bad.
So, then the question is – what would be worse? A good way to begin to think about this is to think of the strengths of this particular approach to the logo.
For one thing, it’s readable.
An unreadable logo would be worse, especially if the brand wants to stand for clarity, simplicity or ease-of-use.
Apple’s use of the apple icon with the bite out of it isn’t unreadable. We say it’s “iconic” precisely because people look at it and immediately think Apple. Not everyone, of course, but enough people do.
Same goes for Nike’s Swoosh.
The approach to the logo above also has the strength of feeling appropriate for the context it’s in. On the other hand it doesn’t stand out, but blends in.
Kim Kardashian. Nothing to see here.
Blending in is a brand value for some companies, but not for others.
Another thing you can say for the variable Zelig (the Woody Allen character who took on the appearance, dress and behavior of whoever he was with) logo is that it is not especially ugly or stupid or crass or inappropriate.
Diesel. bE sT0oPid
Diesel actually had a successful “Be stupid” campaign. The idea: smart is boring; stupid is more fun. A stupid logo might make sense for them, but would be an absolute disaster for Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo. sTuPid in LoVE wITh yOUr MoNEy
I would propose that you start out with a good-enough logo.
I started my own company with DiMassimo Inc. as the name, using the Courier typeface that used to be associated with typewritten material. It was the mid 1990s and the world was full of wild, pixelated, digital-influenced type faces, so I thought that Courier said that we didn’t need any flash or pretense – in short, it showed confidence.
It worked well enough until we had a better logo and identity designed.
Apple started as Apple Computer Co. They didn’t have such a great logo.
Microsoft’s first logo was OK…
Amazon’s first logo was no great shakes…
But there is such a thing as a truly awful logo. Some people think Pepsi’s logo is not so great:
Doughboys Pizza has cleaned up its logo since this one. I know what you’re thinking – no, with a designer!
Also, today it’s important to make sure your logo isn’t offensive in and outside your own borders and culture. This one from Locum in Sweden is particularly unfortunate.
I tried hard to confirm this last one because it’s a pretty unbelievable fail. From all I can find it appears real, although it may have been a company holiday card design rather than an all-year logo. The company currently has a more regular typographic mark, which now looks more like I o cum. So, better.
Now, you know a firm with just this specialization, because you know our name and you know our logo.
Here, I’m going to try to get you to do something that, for most of us, doesn’t come naturally, something that just feels wrong.
It will fly in the face of your professional training. You will find it very hard to get there by using your normal processes. When you even suggest doing something along these lines, you will face immediate resistance. People may think you’re crazy. People may call you crazy. People may use the “crazy” word to shut down all conversation around the idea and make the discomfort go away.
Most of us believe that marketing is trying to put a good face on our product or service. Most of us look for the benefits. Most of us believe that a certain amount of “positive spin” is absolutely essential to “work that sells.” And most of us have some successes to show for these beliefs.
If your product or service is good, if there aren’t great alternatives, and for a while, this level of marketing communications will probably work. And yet the greats have done something very different. They’ve told the truth that most marketers would view as ugly, and in doing so they have stolen the show, and significant market share.
Nike. Dove. Starbucks. Dominos. Telling the ugly truth is a strategy challengers use to become market leaders and market leaders us to remain market leaders.
Our core client is an organization or brand led by people who are committed to their doing good and being better.
That said, many potentially good organizations have much to feel embarrassed about.
There is a tendency to hide the struggle and the failings and thereby inadvertently hide the hero’s journey. As a business leader I have been guilty of this much of the time, missing the opportunity to engage others with the facts of our very human struggle.
I have sought out authentic entrepreneurs as clients so that I can be continuously exposed to the challenging and edifying example of people who tell the radical truth.
Change agents tell the truth. They believe in radical candor. The look for the truth that remains unsaid. They use it to unblock progress, and it works.
For the company with its heart in the right place, a sort of insane honesty can show confidence and clarity of thought and charm while earning trust. Here are some corporate PR examples, followed by some advertising examples.
According to Gartner, top management agrees that brand strategy is the single “Most Vital Marketing Capability.” Let’s do an Inspiring Brand Idea Workshop and accelerate your brand-driven growth. We’re a brand planning agency built for a performance-hungry world. We’ve helped hundreds of clients discover the inspiring idea that organizes and drives growth. The brand idea is the #1 performance driver. While the trend of performance marketing is toward AI automation, brand becomes the sole strategic advantage. I’d be honored to talk with you about your brand. It’s amazing what one workshop can do. You know where to find me.
I’ve noticed that people are surprised when some companies dramatically outperform other companies…
when they grow both revenue and brand value…
when they disrupt and then dominate their categories…
and when they sell or go public at phenomenal valuations…
But I’m not surprised.
I’ve studied those companies intensely for years. I’ve learned directly from the top decision makers exactly what they do differently. I’ve made them the focus of my career. And here I will share with you the single most important thing they do…
They define the word “brand” differently.
The great change agents, disruptors, and CMOs who can write their own tickets all have this in common. “Brand” means something very different to Dollar Shave Club, Airbnb, Warby Parker, and Casper than it does to most marketers.
Most marketers – and in fact, most business leaders – still associate “brand” with logos, style guides, naming conventions and brand ads. This is what I call small brand.
Not the big winners. They subscribe to the concept of BIG BRAND.
They understand that the brand, is first and foremost, an experience in the mind of the user. They understand that to manage that brand is their ultimate job; that it is in fact the main purpose of the organization. They understand that to manage that inner experience, they must design and direct all of the external evidence of the brand that the user experiences.
Therefore, these companies think of “brand” as the entire user experience, not just of the product and promotion, but of every touchpoint related to the brand. That’s Big Brand.
Then, in order to organize and change everything about the way the brand is experienced, they think about the brand this way:
• They think about the brand spirit. They get clear about what the spirit of the brand will be. That spirit will transform every touchpoint into a brand experience. For Tesla, it’s visionary, bold and futuristic. For Airbnb, it’s adventurous, social and natively comfortable. For Dollar Shave Club, it’s fun and frank and super-practical.
• They think about the brand meaning. They know that an inspiring idea can organize and change everything for the brand. They know that people want to buy into more than a value proposition; that they want to be part of something meaningful. For Casper, it’s a more rested culture. For Betterment, it’s a world of tech-savvy, smarter investors. For Tesla, it’s a world without smokestacks and rising oceans. For Dollar Shave Club, it’s a club of guys who look great and still have some money in their pockets.
• They think it applies to ALL their communications. Unlike small brand thinkers who often unthinkingly expose more people more often to brand-damaging promotional come-ons that sap the value of the brand, Big Brand thinkers view everything they do as part of the user experience, part of the brand. They generate more sales, more efficiently, by thinking brand response rather than direct response. In brand response, the brand insight makes customer acquisition more efficient while it builds brand value. The better it works, the more the company can afford to do. The more the company can afford to do, the more it sells and the more valuable its brand is. It’s a virtuous cycle. The opposite of the one that kills the small brand goose.
• They design phenomenal fulfillment experiences. Brand experience design is a mindset that pays huge returns. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! It’s shocking to us that so many companies just deliver in a normal envelope or a cardboard box. It’s crazy that they don’t see their trucks, boxes, crates, envelopes, cards, keys, bags, packaging and even invoices as inspiring brand experiences ready to happen. We are appalled at the enormous waste of owned and tightly targeted media that is underutilized. Casper puts a whole mattress in a box – a story with every delivery! Dollar Shave Club includes Bathroom Notes with every well-designed delivery, mastering their brand domain. Our boxes for Gateway had spots, and you could see them from two blocks away. Our FreshDirect trucks became popular rolling billboards and backdrops for a million selfies. From our logo to every element of delivery packaging, we worked with our brilliant friends at HelloFresh to make every surface and gesture speak the brand. This year, we evolved Weight Watchers’ Starter Kit from a concept to an actual kit, and both recruitments and member results improved dramatically!
• They think about how media creates powerful brand associations. So, in addition to effectively increasing their media budget by 15% or more by insisting on transparent, accountable media, they also use a balanced scorecard for optimizations. This makes both acquisition efficiency and brand association central. It also includes location and purpose to, again, better align to the experience of the user.
• They think about being and doing the brand, not just marketing and promoting it. Because they know that today, everyone is connected to the true word-of-mouth about products and brands, they know that what they do and what they are means more than what they say they do and are.
And yes, they view the people who interact with their marketing as users and friends, rather than “targets” or even “audiences.” They know that today, people are trying to use our marketing and our brand to make meaningful and lasting changes in their own lives. Big Brand thinkers know that’s what we’re here for.
If this concept of Big Brand intrigues you, you may want to check out this roadmap. It’s the same one we use for smaller companies with smaller budgets to build dominant, category-disrupting big brands. It’s the same roadmap we use to help big companies to turn the ship around and succeed in our mobile-and-social-acquisition-driven marketplace.