I have been in the branding industry for 21 years, and have worked with multinationals and financial institutions large and small across Africa and the UK. When working with SMEs across continents it still completely floors me when someone says, “I just want a logo – it can’t be that hard just to do a quick logo.”
Now maybe I take my job and our role as a brand agency too seriously but really… Every single day your life is bombarded with ‘just logos’ yet they are the reason you choose the car you drive, the medical aid you buy, the grocery store you frequent. Sure, it might be more than ‘just a logo’ that creates that choice for you, but it all starts with what goes behind building ‘just a logo’.
A logo is the ultimate expression of your business and its vision and comes alive through communication tools and touchpoints, but the logo is not the starting point. Rather, it is the expression of your business vision, the heart and soul of the business. It is the expression of your organisational values and is developed with your target market’s needs, desires, and emotional frameworks in mind.
The logo encompasses what your business can become. It is the ultimate expression of you as a business owner – you as a leadership team.
So, no, it’s not ‘just a logo’. It is the holder of sacred dreams – okay, that may be a bit much for some to swallow, but when you are building your own business you don’t start it because you want to sell ”nails to hardware stores”. Your business is your path to the greatest expression of yourself – of who you are and what you believe in. It is the path to financial security and freedom for yourself and your family. We may not always think in those terms but if you really sit down and think about why you started a business – versus getting a job – I am pretty sure you will find some of these truths to be self-evident. Going at it alone means you want to take the risk and create something and that something is expressed through your identity – your brand.
Creating a brand is a scientific process as much as it’s a creative process and that’s what always fascinates me when people don’t understand that there is a science behind creating a brand that may outlast a business. I don’t suppose our industry has helped itself when everyone with a Mac and some creative flair calls themselves a branding expert. Don’t get me wrong, there are some massively talented individuals out there that are essential to the creation of a great brand with “a Mac and flair” but to create a great brand even these individuals need to understand the strategic intent and direction. To be brilliant and to express those truths they need to understand what you are trying to achieve and with whom.
So next time your CEO – or you – asks for ‘just a logo’, take a step back and remember a logo is the expression of a dream and it may just possibly outlive you. Give it the due consideration it needs and, without giving away the crown jewels of how exceptional brands are created, think about these things:
Consumer values and needs: Understand your target market intimately – especially now. And no, “everyone” is not your segmentation. It may become an “everyone” brand and product but to get there find the sharp end of the spear. Find the market that is going to resonate first and foremost with you, the core market that by its very engagement with your brand begins to help shape and define what your brand becomes. You no longer own your brand; you are simply a custodian. It’s your clients who own your brand. Think about that.
2. Understand your vision and values: A brand must be created in alignment with your business’ values and must deliver on your business’ vision. Yes, this is when the ‘why’ comes into it – read Simon Sinek or just really get to the soul of your reason for doing this. Your ‘why’ will define your behavior whether you are aware of it or not.
Unpack the benefits and assets: Align and define the brand values. Extract or create the brand essence and lastly, identify your brand archetype.
All that together will create your brand vision and promise, the message that will last long after you.
Once you have established those three points, only then can you unpack the design philosophy and the design language. You need this understanding before you start creating your logo.
Your logo – and by extension the brand – must carry all the above within its creation. And as we know… making the complex really simple is the hardest thing to do.