What your cheap business logo can cost your business
There are now a proliferation of sites out there that act as a sort of a beauty contest for logos. For $299 on 99designs, you can have 30 logos ‘designed for you’. You fill in a brief on the site, pick from a number of options regarding your industry sector, company attributes and preferred colours and off you go. Designers submit their logos to the competition, and when you pick a winner, they’re awarded a prize and you get your logo.
If $299 sounds a little bit much to spend, why not check among your friends and relatives if there are any high school or first year uni students that they know, who are looking for a bit of experience in graphic design and would like to design you a logo for cash (or in the case of the uni students, for that time-honoured currency, the slab of beer)?
Still too pricey? Have you checked out Microsoft Word yet – it comes with a heap of different fonts, not to mention Word Art. You can simply type in your company name, cycle through the font, effects and colour options until you find something you are happy with and voilá – brand to go!
Did you see any problem with the three scenarios above? We have worked with plenty of businesses that had designed their logos this way and they were still doing business and making money. Was the way they arrived at their business branding so wrong?
Well, in a word…yes. Why? They didn’t consider what a cheap business logo can cost their business in terms of credibility, because:
- First impressions count
- People often do judge a book by its cover
So while you may have got a supercheap deal when times were tight and professional branding seemed an expensive luxury, the truth is it may cost your company significantly in the long run.
What is a logo?
First a few definitions.
The terms ‘brand’ and ‘logo’ are often used interchangeably, but are actually distinct from each other. A brand is the set of characteristics, values, and attributes that are embodied in everything an organisation does, Your brand is actually not something that can be seen or touched, and also not something that can be fully controlled by you (although you can work hard to influence it).
When we talk about logos, we mean the visual representation of your organisation’s brand. A logo sums up a brand’s attributes visually, and attempts to make intangible brand qualities, tangible. Many logos include a symbol or image, as well as the company name. Sometimes if the symbol is very well known, it is used without the company name (Facebook’s ‘F’) or a logo can simply be the business name written in a particular font, usually known as a wordmark. Your logo is a controllable part of your brand identity that should have a significant impact on how your company is seen by the public.
Why is a good logo so important?
As far as customers are concerned, your logo gives them clues about what sort of an organisation or business you are. It may well be the first aspect of your marketing that they see.
A well-designed and properly used logo, that accurately reflects your brand, shows your customers and other contacts that:
- You take your business seriously
- You are different (better) than the competition
- You offer quality products or services that are worth what you are asking for them.
The development of your logo is usually the starting point for your investment in branding and marketing. It will probably be rolled out across your stationery, print marketing and online promotion including websites at the very least. Depending on what sort of business you are, the logo could also be used on uniforms, vehicle branding, building signage and point of sale items.
Replacing all these items if your logo has not been well thought through or designed, is a costly exercise.
It’s always a good idea to look down the track at where you want to be, rather than where you are starting, when making branding decisions. One client that we worked with on logo development, LabTech Training (LTT)* had a staff made up of three founding directors and one administrator when we oversaw the redesign of their logo as part of marketing strategy development. When we started working with LTT, they had a word mark created in Microsoft Word that was used on marketing documents created in-house, for business cards, and for some promotional shopping bags.
This company had a vision of growth within Western Australia, and in the future interstate and even internationally. Their main competitor was a large, well-established and recognised training institution, and their target customer base included national organisations with thousands of staff.
As part of our initial marketing strategy, we discussed with them the necessity of having robust branding, including an updated logo, in order to be considered on a similar professional footing as both their main competitor, and the clients that they were targeting. Although they were attached to the initial logo that they had developed themselves, they agreed to a rebrand to set the company up for the future.
The new company logo, commissioned by us in 2008 and designed by Lightship Visual, has since been rolled out on LTT’s corporate website, video, promotional items, exhibition displays, corporate uniforms, building signage and a suite of marketing material and print advertising. The company has expanded from the initial group of four to over 60 staff, offices in four states and has also undertaken international training. They also picked up a prestigious national training award on the way.
With the rapid growth and geographic expansion of the company, the longer a rebrand was deferred, the more it would have cost them to make any changes. Investing in a professionally designed logo at an early stage of their company growth gave LTT the basis to effectively market their training services both directly to consumers, in competition with an established brand, and to other businesses who wanted to be able to deal with confidence in a professional organisation.
It also established the basis for this training organisation to be seen as a national company, rather than a provincial small business.
*Since project completion, LabTech Training has grown substantially and has become “LTT Group”, reflecting the broader course offerings now available in addition to the original laboratory operations qualifications.
Why can’t I get these great results for a bargain price?
There is a remote possibility that you will get a top result for a tiny price:
- You could hit the design jackpot on 99designs or a similar crowdsourcing service and get an outstanding field of designs to choose from that are perfect for your business.
- Your high school student neighbor could turn out to be a design prodigy with a deep understanding of brand development and print production processes;
- You could hit just the right combination of keys in your Word document to produce a logo that will deploy equally as well across signage and corporate uniforms as websites and business cards and look super professional.
But none of these results are likely.
Here is the reason why – most professional graphic designers will go through the following process to help you develop a new logo for your company:
- Discovery/Brief. Talk to you about your company, what you do, how you developed your company name, where you operate, who your target markets are, who you compete with, what your values and future growth goals are and how your logo is likely to be used. They may also get your ideas about whether you have a particular vision of your logo in mind – although they may make some other recommendations as part of the development process.
- Positioning. Look at your competitors, the industry and related organisations to work out how to differentiate you from the rest. The designer may research your tools of trade or symbols related to your company name or history to springboard some logo ideas form.
- Concept development. Using the information from the brief, the designer starts sketching or designing a few concepts to work from, then refining the most successful ideas to a more finished state. This stage possibly involves researching new fonts that could be purchased or created to suit the logo.
- Presentation and Feedback. The designer presents a small selection of refined concepts to the client for feedback. Most designers will limit the number of concepts presented in this stage, as they have used their experience to develop a selection that they feels best represents your organisation.
- Tweaking. Making minor adjustments to the client’s preferred design and creating versions suited for horizontal and vertical placement.
- Production and packaging. Saving the logo in a variety of formats suitable for a variety of uses including digital, print, signage, embroidery and screenprinting. The designer may also create ‘mono’ versions of designs that use more than one colour, as these will not be suited to all applications.
- Style Guide creation. Depending on your arrangement, the designer will also produce a ‘style guide’ which includes details of colours used in the logo and other corporate identity devices, minimum logo size etc. to help guide the application of the logo and other brand assets.
Now, if you were getting paid less than $250 (after the crowdsourcing site’s commission) for your work only if you were the winner, and $0 if you didn’t happen to have the one of 30 designs selected, would you put in the hours and hours required to properly understand a company’s branding needs, design a unique logo to fit those exact needs, and then refine it until it was perfect?
What you might do instead was enter something you hadn’t put a huge amount of time or thought into, or perhaps some logos developed for other clients that hadn’t made it through the presentation process, as you don’t stand to lose a lot of time or money for doing so.
A less smart designer might even copy an existing logo from another company or use free clip art to generate something to submit. This could lead to potential trademarking or copyright violations down the track for the unwitting company using the logo.
The steps of logo development outlined above are the approach most credible and professional designers will follow to come up with a logo that will stand the test of time – and they take time for which the designer will want to be reasonably compensated. While you shouldn’t expect to have to remortgage your house to make it happen, if you want to pay peanuts you are far more likely to attract monkeys.
What your cheap business logo can cost
If your business is trying to compete on any values other than low cost, a cheap, unconsidered or poorly designed logo can do more damage than good in terms of lost business.
As a customer, if you had to choose between two companies with similar products and service levels, and one had a much more professional image than the other, there are probably only a few reasons that you would choose the business with the weaker logo.
The first reason could be that you already have used that company and been impressed by other brand attributes, such as service level, or that you know the owners and have transferred their personal attributes (skill, pleasant manner, work ethic) to the brand.
The second reason could be that you are simply looking for the cheapest deal, and think that the company with the higher quality logo might be more expensive.
However, if discount pricing is not your main marketing platform, a cheap logo can give the wrong impression of your business from the outset, because it affects almost every bit of marketing that you do.
- A bad logo may not accurately present the business it is supposed to represent or the products or services it offers, because of a lack of research or experience in developing logos.
- It may also have other problems such as being difficult to read, hard to use in different formats, and be unmemorable or unappealing. Poor choices of colour, fonts or bad layout can also reduce the quality of a logo.
- The logo may be so similar to another established logo that it causes confusion among customers, and
- If the logo is not created in all appropriate formats, it may not be useful in the long term.
So when you are planning your company branding, don’t fall into the trap of seeking out a bargain basement business logo. Consider in marketing terms what your cheap business logo can cost – it might just be a lot more than you think!
Need some help in developing your branding or new business logo?
Call Hook and Loop on 0404 086 140 for advice on doing it right, or drop us a line below
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