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Better Late Than Never…

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The great thing about the blogosphere is that, despite the common perception that everything web-related is ephemeral, blog articles actually live for what seems like a relative eternity. Because of the catalog-oriented nature of blogs, a simple reference to an article someone wrote two years ago can instantly resuscitate an idea or discussion.

This happened to me this morning while I was reading a Twitter feed… I came across a blog post written by Jay Ehret from The Marketing Spot. He was talking about a recent facelift he gave his business and was talking about the development of his new logo. He then referenced this blog post he had earlier written, about the relative unimportance of logos for new brands. Having just written an article for the Philadelphia Ad Club about ugly brands, my curiosity was aroused.

Jay’s earlier post begins:

“I hate to be the one to break the news, but the importance of logos in branding is overblown. Don’t get me wrong, they have their use…somewhat. But when it comes to branding, logos have nothing to do with the establishment of your brand. If you’re about to spend some money having a logo designed, you may want to wait.”

He then goes on to illustrate a number of well known logos — Coca Cola, Starbucks, Microsoft, Wal Mart & McDonalds — and asserts that, essentially, their logos do little to maintain or acknowledge the brands they are paired with. Really, he notes, most logos have little meaning and are only important “after you establish your brand.”

He has a point. Certainly the marketing landscape is clogged with big name brands featuring visual slop for identity. (I wrote about those in a previous post…)

But that doesn’t mean visual identity isn’t important or doesn’t play a role in the way your business is perceived by your clients or consumers. In my previous post, I used Google as an example of a business that paid a price for the sloppiness of its visual identity. When I saw the Google homepage for the first time I remember thinking it looked, well, pretty amateurish. I get spareness but, frankly, the designers of that UI looked like they just didn’t really care what it looked like. Which, as their customer is, for me, somewhat insulting. (I applaud the simplicity and functionality, though. Functionality and attractive design, though, are not mutually exclusive. ) The brand succeeded in spite of its amateurish mark and look. Imagine if its founders had spent only a few thousand bucks paying a competent design firm to create a memorable mark and finessed their UI a bit.

Which brings me to my last point…

Jay makes the reasonable observation that logos are only important “after you establish your brand.” But, if I’m starting a small business, wouldn’t my money be better spent if I allocate a small amount of it upfront to get a visual identity for my brand that I don’t feel like I have to retroactively fix two years down the road?

In the end, getting it right the first time might be less costly than fixing something at a later time.

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