Brand imagery bombards todays customers, as a range of various different messages surround the average consumer with a plentitude of marketing communication. Brand logos create value to customers by enabling faster decision making through facilitating brand identification (Handerson & Cote, 1998). As part of a brand element, a logo can be defined as a graphic representations or image that triggers memory associations of the target brand. However logos go beyond just brand identification, as benefits of logo use include; increased brand purchase (Park et al, 2010), reduced customer price sensitivity (Ailawadi et al, 2003) and lower overall marketing costs (Mizik & Jacobson, 2008)
This is because logos act as the primary visual representation of a brands general image and functional benefit. Logos can therefore effect a brands reputation (Baker & Balmer, 1997), consumer attitudes (Woo et al, 2008) and brand loyalty (Müller et al, 2011)
Visual symbols may personalise a brand and provides customers with a sense of connection better than brands names can communicate alone, due to symbols being a richer and more tangible means of communication (MacInnis et al, 1999). Symbols more easily signify a brands benefits and transcend language barriers than text or names, effectively allowing for logos to be used universally, as language barrier is no longer an issue within different markets.
Logos create value for a firm, through engaging customer self-identity and expressiveness, as a brand may choose to reflect various parts of their customers identities, such as core beliefs and values, or lifestyles they adhere to (Escalas & Bettman, 2005) within their logo design, in an attempt to develop an association between the brand and self, which in turn helps people see the brand as part of themselves. (Walsh et al, 2010).
Another value created through logo design is communication of the functional benefit of the brand, since logos emanate a desirable and capable self. Brands can therefore reinforce the belief that using their product reduces uncertainty in individuals lives, by facilitating control and efficacy in achieving/avoiding desirable/undesirable outcomes (Park et al, 2013). Similar to Skinner’s behavioural theory on operant conditioning, as a way of moulding consumers to learn that the stimulus of using a brands product will lead to a positive result or the removal of a negative consequence (Skinner, 1939). Both positive and negative reinforcement, allows for the brands functional benefit to be conveyed, which encourages customers to reciprocate and rely on the brands as a solution for certain problem, resulting in effective marketing through enhancing customers brand commitment further.
Aesthetic appeal creates value, since it provides visual gratification and acts as a prompt for customers to develop an emotional bond with a visible element of the seemingly intangible firm (Park et al, 2013). Symbols with an appealing visual design can also help brands become more salient and stimulating in an individuals mind, hence facilitating favourable attitude formation and memory retrieval (Fischer et al, 1991).
All these create value for a firm, by effectively communicating with a customer, using only a single image, allowing consumers to develop a relationship and build trust with the brand. Potentially increasing a firms performance, using customer loyalty to influence stability and growth of the firms revenue and profits over time, effectively protecting the firm from competitive threats (Park et al, 2013). Results show that commitment is significantly associated with all three benefits of logo use; facilitating brand self associations, representing functional benefits and providing aesthetic appeal; whilst brand identification and brand names alone is not significantly related to brand commitment (Park et al, 2013). It is therefore essential for firms to dedicate considerable resources in developing an effective logo, as the iconography act as a prominent feature in a diverse array of direct and indirect communication vehicles produced by a business, ranging from packaging, promotional materials, and advertising to uniforms, business card and letterheads (Bottomly and Doyle, 2006). It is because of this, that firms have started to pay substantial attention to brand aesthetics, with 1 in 50 companies redesigning their logo in a given year (Spaeth, 2002). Given the expenses involved in logo redesign, firms would benefit by knowing which customers are likely to respond well to such changes within their pièce de résistance, and new firms want to find out how they can best appeal to customer using a single image, to effectively penetrate the market.
A systematic typology was formulated to classify the visual elements of logo design. These included the concepts of naturalness, harmony, elaborateness, parallelism, repetition, proportion, and shape (Henderson and Cote, 1998). It is found that particular shapes within a logo design send out specific messages, a consumer would then subconsciously infer particular qualities about the brand:
Straight edged, four sided structures such as squares and rectangles, suggest stability used to imply balance, trust and rationality. Precise logo shapes also convey professionalism and efficiency. Subverting these shapes with off-kilter positioning or more dynamic colours, would result in the stability being lost, but there’s an addition of an attention capturing property (Pahwa, 2017). Examples include; Lego, Microsoft, and American Express
It is also suggested that triangles have a strong association with power, direction and dynamics, which tend to be viewed as masculine attributes. The triangle shape depict dissimilar meaning when positioned differently. Displaying stability and strength when placed on its base, and conversely when tilted show instability and tension (Pahwa, 2017). Examples include; Google Drive and Google Play
Circles, ovals and ellipses tend to project a positive emotional message. Usually depicting completeness, protection, creativeness and movement. Circles are less common than other shapes, hence they act as attention grabbing (Pahwa, 2017). Example of rounded logos include Google Chrome, Samsung, Dell
It is therefore important to consider the subliminal effects of different shape choices within logo design, as it is principal to ensure it reflects, and communicates effectively, to the chosen audience.
Consumers in Asian countries, such as China, perceived natural and harmonious logo designs more positively, whereas consumers in western cultures, such as the UK, perceived abstract and asymmetric logo designs more positively (Henderson, 2003). The roundness of a logo is highly related to perceptions of harmony and naturalness. Therefore the trend of roundness being a common feature in current logo design; a response to the craziness of the dot-com era, and brand globalisation with the expansion to new asian markets, where roundness is preferred (Zhang et al, 2006); would result in a more positive response to the brands logo. Evidenced by 50% of a collection of 200 redesigned logos changing shape, among those 68% were pronounced more rounded (Carter, 2005).
Empirical research has found that consumers interpret a rounded version of a stimulus to be a compromise between the focal stimulus and its surroundings (Arnheim, 1954), highlighting its ability to appear approachable and harmonious (Berlyne, 1960), allowing its applicability to be wide ranging. In contrast, angularity is associated with energy, toughness and strength, which may be more significantly appealing to different markets such as Sportswear, eg Nike’s Swoosh.
Subsequent theories of visual perception were based around the principal Gestalt Theory (Arnheim, 1954). The theory comprises of 5 fundamental principles in ways that humans group together objects, to form a perception of an image, these include; Similarity, Continuation, Closure, Proximity and Multi-stability.
When objects appear similar to one another, viewers will often see the individual elements as part of a pattern or group (Hampton-Smith, 2017). This effect can be used to create a single image from a series of seemingly separate elements, increasing the sense of coherence. Contrastingly a particular element can be emphasised by highlight the element as an anomaly, breaking the pattern of similarity (Paget, 2017), eg SUN Microsystems
Continuation, is the principle through which the eye is drawn along a path, as the brain prefers to see a single continuous figure rather than separate lines. This can be used to create movement within a composition, and is seen where a line is cut through one object, aligning perfectly with a secondary element (Paget, 2017), examples include Coca Cola
Proximity uses the close arrangement of elements to create a group association between those objects (Arnheim, 1954), example include IBM (also masculinity) and Unilever.
Closure is a popular principle, where an object is incomplete or the interior space of an element is not fully closed, but the viewer perceives a complete shape by filling in the missing information (Hampton-Smith, 2017). This is effective within Logo Design as it adds almost a hidden element that is novel for the viewer once found, examples include FedEx – arrow, WWF – panda
A more unique approach to create novelty and complexity is through Multi-stability. This principle describes the eye’s tendency to separate the foreground object from its background, where everything that is not a figure is considered ground, which can be used to create interesting visual trickery, particularly when the designer introduces deliberate ambiguity (Hampton-Smith, 2017).
Although these principles aren’t applicable to all logo design, it demonstrates that thought behind arrangement and level of complexity, is a consideration for firms that aspire for distinctive branding, allowing them to stand out amongst stiff competition within saturated markets.
The implications of shape also extend to the typeface chosen. Jagged, sharp and angular typefaces may appear aggressive or dynamic, giving the impression of energy. Contrastingly, soft, rounded letterforms have a calming, relaxed and youthful appeal. Moreover curved typefaces, similar to cursive scripts, tend to appeal more to a female audience, while bold lettering has a more masculine attraction (Christie, 2017). Ultimately, font and lettering must be easily legible, to allow for consumers to create a connection quickly, otherwise they may instead choose a competitors products, since they feel inferior to the complexity of the image.
Simplicity is therefore another element of effective design as the ease of perception of a logo proves to gain the most trust amongst consumers, whilst excessive detail, that are too complicated to understand within an instant, may evoke a negative response. The most iconic and powerful brands have very simple design, making them iconic and recognisable in its nature.
Another element for brands to consider within their logo design is the use of Colour, as 92.6% of customers value visual factors most important when purchasing products (Random Original, 2010) with 84.7% of consumers citing colour as their main reason for purchasing a particular product (Morton, 2010). It is found that black and white imagery may sustain interest for less than two-thirds of a second, in contrast a coloured image may hold the attention for two seconds or more (Morton, 2010). In relation to marketing, it is essential for branding to hold a customers attention as a product has only one-twentieth of a second to grab the customer’s attention on a supermarket shelf (Lindberg, 2013). While, the choice of colour within online advertising and marketing material, has the potential of changing a consumers motivation to buy a product by 80% (Inkbot Design, 2016), this is increasingly important, considering the role of the brands logo.
While the perception of colour psychology is mostly subjective, some colours have a universal impact.
* Form into paragraph*
– Blue is the most popular choice for business logos. It calms people down and at the same time transmits a message of confidence and success. Companies of very different niches use this colour because it brings almost no negative emotions at all. eg HP, Samsung and Intel – All share technology link
– Black in colour and logo design psychology signifies power and indicates the strength of a company, eliciting their authority over their consumers Eg Nike, Adidas & Hugo Boss – Their colour suggests that people wearing their clothes would feel more powerful.
– Grey is a natural shade that works well with most colours. Its universal appeal is contrast to it often being perceived as cold and authoritative, whilst still appearing modest simultaneously; it is often used by powerful companies that don’t brag about their popularity eg Apple
– Green expresses life and renewal. It is a colour of respect and peace that is often associated with finances, safety, and nature. This is the most popular colour among the eco-friendly brands. Besides that, it’s often used by the companies that deal with computer software, health, nature and food eg Oxfam, Heineken
– Brown indicates nature (wood or ground) which implies benefits or advantages. It is a warm colour that doesn’t attract much attention but creates a feeling of harmony and simplicity. It also can create an emotional image of seriousness and responsibility. That’s why many construction companies, law firms, real estate agencies and other organisations use it for their logos and branding eg Graze, UPS
– Yellow is a dazzling colour and is often used to attract attention, as the human eye sees it before anything else. It creates happy emotions and is often considered simple, or a bit childish. It is most appropriate to use in a family-oriented businesses such as water parks, family restaurants, toys, etc. eg McDonalds, Bic
– Red is an intense colour that can awaken strong emotions. It can attract or reinforce an interest in anything. Many restaurants use the light shades of red as they satisfy a client’s strong desire to eat. This colour also shows drive and energy. eg Nintendo
Performable changed the colour of a Call-To-Action (CTA) button from green to red, resulting in a 21% increase in conversions (Porter, 2011)
In a marketing experiment, Heinz changed the colour of their signature ketchup from red to green and sold over 10 million bottles in the first 7 months, resulting in $23 million in sales. At the time, it was the highest sales increase in the brand’s history (Morton, 2010)
In a study from the University of Loyala, it was tested that colour increases brand recognition by up to 80% (Morton, 2010)
It is important to keep the audiences and companies values in mind when creating an effective marketing tool. Brand commitment can be viewed as “an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship” between consumer and brand (Moorman and Zaltman, 1992). High brand commitment consumers tend to see strong connections between themselves and the brand (Escalas and Bettman, 2003) and consider the brands to be an integral part of their lives (Fournier, 1998). Therefore highlighting that brands shouldn’t be one dimensional corporations, but communicate and listen to customers, as brands are seen as an essential ideology for consumers, as they tend to look up to the brand and may construct their lifestyle in order to achieve the brands sense of ideal.
Brand logos convey a different meaning to every consumer, as the visual cue of the brands logo can become the basis for triggering brand related associations and thoughts in the consumers memory (Keller, 2005), which would be significantly different to consumers with a strong brand commitment than to those with little or no brand commitment.
Highly committed consumers are likely to view logo changes as threatening their relationship with the brand (Ahluwalia et al, 2000), as they view the change as threatening their self-brand connections, as the information is inconsistent with with their perception of the brand, which motivates them to defend the relationship by evaluating the new information negatively, similar to an information-processing perspective (Ahluwalia et al, 2000)
Whilst those with weak brand commitment, a change in logo would not be as meaningful, and are likely to perceive the change in shape as novel, leading them to evaluate the logo more positively (Kohlia and Suri, 2002). Therefore indicating that changes in brand design would most likely elicit new customer interest, whilst alienating current committed customers.
Currently, most companies use a mass market approach when the firm decides on a change to their logo (Keller, 2013), and unknowingly wrongly assume that their most loyal and lucrative customers will be more accommodating to the changes. However a more nuanced approach is necessary to ensure logo redesign appeal to both target audiences of old and new customer segments.