Lucy Smith from Small Business Logos explains the dos and don’ts of branding.

Better Business: Branding

Every good logo tells a story about the business it represents, and many do much more besides. For some of the world’s biggest organisations, such as Coca Cola and McDonalds, the logo takes on a life all of its own – instantly recognisable to pretty much everyone on the planet.

While you may not be going for global domination, by looking at the most successful logos and overall images you can get pointers for your own business. Think about the ‘brand story’, the meaning that is communicated when you see a logo.

To have the kind of effect that Apple’s apple, Disney’s signature or the famous golden arches evoke, you need a depth of meaning that takes years to create. As a new business, your logo, website and signage needs to get your own story started, attracting customers by communicating the right messages.

Do be consistent
Before you launch your new logo on the world, make sure you’re happy with it. If the look of a business keeps changing, this suggests instability – have the owners changed? Is it in financial difficulty? When a designer hands over the artwork, make sure you get brand guidelines so images are consistently reproduced, be it on websites, brochures or letterheads. A consistent visual identity promotes reliability, strength and trust.

Don’t get complicated
Complicated often means confusing; simple, bold designs are much easier to commit to memory than more elaborate ones. Specifically, think about how your new logo will translate to different formats – will it work on the side of a van as well as scaled down to fit on your business card?

Don’t ignore the competition
Research your competitors’ logos and overall branding. Look at what they’re doing right, and wrong, and think about what their logos say about them. Different sectors usually stick to certain rules – ‘green’ businesses, you guessed it, often use green, while the IT world often favours silver/grey, signifying technology. If you want to be aligned with other companies in a field, it may be that you consider these rules in your logo design.

Do remember images are powerful
Whether you use an image or symbol alongside your company name, like HSBC, or have a purely graphical logo like Starbucks, it’s important to remember that a well-chosen image could be your most powerful tool. Images instantly relay meaning, from obvious things like flowers for a florist, or a tap for a plumber, to less literal associations – for example the University of Rotterdam recently found that logos which are planet-shaped suggest social responsibility.

Don’t cut corners
With ‘do-it-yourself’ logos offered very cheaply, it may be tempting to save a few pennies. Designing a logo and subsequent branding is not easy, in fact simplicity is often the hardest thing to achieve. Call in the experts – you’ve probably got enough to do getting your business off the ground, and could use some external support with your logo. There are many professional design companies that won’t charge the earth to create a well though-out logo, bespoke to your business.

Remember, a good logo inspires trust and loyalty and can make a small business look far more established and superior than it is. It’s the starting point for your brand, and thus a crucial element that deserves attention and investment.

Lucy Smith is Marketing and Ecommerce Director for Small Business Logos, a design service for start-ups and small business owners.

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