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Thursday, August 19, 2010

No One Cares About Your Company Logo

from Joe Moreno





Are you about to test the waters as an entrepreneur?

One of the most important first steps is to spend a lot of time, money, and energy designing your logo since that represents your company, right? Wrong!

In a recent column that I wrote with Guy Kawasaki on business branding mistakes, we noted that many new entrepreneurs get wrapped around the axel regarding the importance of their logo. This became a hot button issue since our column was published so I've elaborated on it.

How you use your logo is important, but what it stands for is only important to the entrepreneur and the graphic artist who designed it. Trust me, no one cares that the Amazon logo means that Amazon sells everything from A to Z or that the word "Sun" appears in the Sun Microsystems logo, no matter which way is up. No one decides to do business with a company based on its logo.

An entrepreneur recently told me that National Geographic reviews thousands of photos before picking the right one for the magazine's cover. Regardless if that's true or not, this is a common mistake and there is a key point of distinction that is being overlooked: Magazine covers sell magazines, but logos do not sell companies. Focus on what your customers care about, not what you care about.

As long as your logo is halfway decent then it will stick in the minds of your customers if you build a great business. For example, the Apple logo is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful icon but only because of Apple’s overall success.

Now comes the irony. Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, is a master marketer, yet he is also a perfect example of someone going overboard when designing a logo.

After Steve Jobs resigned from Apple Computer, in 1985, he started Next Computer and paid Paul Rand, a renowned graphic designer, $100,000 to design the Next Computer logo. Despite paying this exorbitant price, Next was a business failure when Apple acquired it in 1997 for just over $400 million during the heyday of the dot-com boom. While $400 million may seem like a lot of money, this transaction left some of Next's key investors at a loss since they invested in the company when it was worth $600 million.

After watching this 1993 video where Steve Jobs talks about the Next logo, ask yourself if Next would have been any more or less successful with a cheaper logo.

I have no doubt that, to this day, Steve Jobs will still stand by his decision to pay $100,000 for the Next logo, but remember, you are not Steve Jobs. True industry leaders can break old rules and make new ones.

Over the decades, company names and logo styles have come and gone. These days, a company logo consisting simply of stylized text is the fashion of the day such as Exxon Mobile, Microsoft, Walmart, and Google, to name a few.

So, what should you put into your logo design? Keep it simple. Apple got very lucky with their logo design as Jobs describes in this video when he said, "Every once in a while, a company has a logo that's sort of a little jewel; a symbol that can be used independently of a logo type. At Apple, we had such a symbol; as a matter of fact at Apple it was very rare because the symbol was the name of the company, it was a thing that had the same name as the company: an Apple."

But, make no mistake, had Apple not been the roaring success that began in the late 1970s, that logo would mean nothing. A recognizable logo is the outcome of success rather than the cause of the success.

Joe Moreno is the founder of the photo sharing site Epics3.com, based in Carlsbad, CA. He also provides cloud computing and WebObjects consulting services to businesses. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeMoreno or reach him at (760)444-4721.


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