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A logo visually represents what your company, product or service stands for. While over time, a logo can develop into the embodiment of your brand, many organizations fail to invest in this key marketing device. A good logo creates or reinforces an appropriate impression when encountered by customers, prospects or business partners. In this issue, we discuss logos and other marks.

From a design standpoint, there are three basic types of marks. A typographical mark is just that: one derived from type only, perhaps with an element or elements of the type to make it distinctive. Consider the logos of Heinz and American Express for example:

heinz amex
The advantage of a type-only treatment is that it builds brand awareness for your organization with every impression. For a small organization, a type-only logo may eliminate the opportunity for a visual reference that a graphical logo can provide.

There are abstract symbols that companies successfully link to the underlying brand, products and services. This type of mark is the most difficult from a branding perspective, because it can take years of association for people to identify it with an underlying product or service. Companies such as Nike, AT&T and Apple have the time and marketing exposure to pull this off; smaller organizations may not. Consider the logos of Apple and AT&T as examples:

att apple
With a graphic that represents what products or service you provide, you can immediately define what you do just with the identification derived from the mark, or evoke a feeling of those products or services. For an example of a logo that illustrates a company's product or services, consider the Foot Locker logo. The graphic image totally reinforces the sports shoe theme of this retailer:

foot locker


While defining your brand image direction is a good step to take on your own, executing your brand identity may be a mistake without the professional assistance of a designer. Try to find one who is familiar with your industry and your competition. A good designer can not only come up with a powerful mark, but can ensure that it will translate appropriately to print, on-line and signage. Your identity is the foundation of your marketing effort. Make sure it works in all the media in which you will need to use it. When considering the fee, remember that a logo should last you years to come. If you amortize the price over a number of years, the investment may seem more reasonable than looking at it as a one-time expense.


Before you begin, try to define the message you want to communicate with a statement to focus your effort. And bear in mind a few "gotcha's". Avoid an approach that is too trendy (trends come and go) and don't rely on clip art. Not only is it unprofessional, in all likelihood it cannot be copyrighted or trademarked since it is based on derivative artwork.

Instead, try to define the key feature or benefit of your products or services. What visual can convey that basic, fundamental benefit? A representation that captures such an essence of your organization will inevitably be the most successful approach you can take.

Look at the logos of others in your market. Do these organizations rely on conservative or more intense approaches? How do you want to differentiate your logo from competitors and others in your market?

What about the message you want to convey? What do you want to communicate? A feeling of seriousness or one that is lighthearted? Some factors to consider include the nature of your product and service and the audience to whom those products and services are targeted, as well as factors in the design that can make your effort unique and stand out from the competition.

Keeping it simple will make it functional. The concepts you are evaluating may look good mounted on presentation board, but how will it look on a business card? A website? On packaging, signage or a delivery truck? On a fax cover sheet? Adding color to some media may be cost prohibitive; will it work in black-and-white? Your logo should be easy to enlarge or reduce, easy to reproduce, and of course be memorable and distinctive. That's why iconic images work better than photographic ones, since photographs may become unintelligible as they are reduced in scale.


When considering colors, make sure you consider the cost. A logo designed with one or more PMS (spot) colors, metallics, foil stamping and/or embossing can achieve a great effect, but just keep in mind how these colors/techniques can create extra costs, and/or prevent your logo from being reproduced on a digital press.


Once you've completed your logo, apply for a trademark. U.S. businesses can apply at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Canadian business can do so here. To be safe, file your trademark application before applying it to your mix of marketing communications.

Once you have your mark and are legally protected, use your new logo everywhere: stationery, business cards, ads, your website, delivery vehicles, packaging, anywhere your organization's name is mentioned. Good luck!


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