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We were in a meeting recently with some folks who are launching a new logo, for their 86-year-old company. It’s a pretty big deal to them, because they want to send the right message. And they don’t want to send the wrong message.

Being a glib, flippant ad guy, I popped off, “It is not big news to consumers that your company has a new logo.”

The client responded, “If logos aren’t important, why do we need one?”

So, I had to back up.

It is very important that you have a logo, for consumer recognition and recall purposes. But it is not news that you have a new logo, because consumers aren’t particularly interested in logos (at least they do not make most purchasing decisions on the basis of your logo). News to consumers is new products, new features, a limited time or limited quantity deal, a special price, a special privilege available only to certain customers…. In other words, consumers are interested in “what’s in it for me.”

But here is why it is important that you have a logo, that you seat your logo, that your logo fits with the rest of your brand expressions, and that you use your logo (and the rest of your expressions) consistently.

People have limited memory (brain space) dedicated to stuff they buy. In general, they will have between one and three options within any product category (with commodities it may be more than three, with high-emotion, high-loyalty categories such as cars and coffee, it may be as few as one). Marketing people call this short list consideration set.

People store their information in virtual file folders in their brain. Until they know enough about a given category to differentiate brands, the file folders will have some sort of name or “visual” marker that signifies the category. They might have a folder for appliances or maybe as specific as washing machines. Over time, perhaps when a life event puts them into a shopping mode, they begin collecting more information and they may have a need to divide that information into brands. So, maybe, within the washing machine folder, they have sub-folders called, “Maytag,” “Kenmore,” “Amana,” and “All others.”

If they’ve been buying washing machines for a few years (maybe they have moved five times and have a second home and a couple of rentals), they might develop such loyalty to a given brand that for them, that brand name becomes synonymous with the category. So, instead of having a “Washing Machines” folder, they have a “Maytag and others” folder. If enough people do this with a single brand, it risks becoming a generic…Frigidaire, Kleenex, Scotch tape, etc. Just as an aside, you do want your brand to be a “Maytag and others” brand. You do not want your brand to be a “Scotch tape,” because if you allow your brand to become a generic, then you may lose the ability to protect the brand; and if that happens, you lose all of the leverage that comes with brand equity.

Anyhow, at this iconographic | cognitive level, people’s memories are very visual. They will reduce your name to a visual, even if it is a “picture” of your name written in a certain type face. This is where brands are valuable. If I can make my brand memorable in visual form (an apple, a swoosh, an arch), then it requires less brain energy to create the file and retrieve information about my brand.

So, while logos can be very cool looking things, their practical role in the consumer marketing equation is sort of basic. They give people something to hold onto, some place to put their information, a way of recalling your benefit set, and a simple icon for their consideration set. So, when I quipped that “your new logo is not news to consumers,” I was thinking something more like, “your new logo is news to consumers about on par with the launch of a new shopping bag.” They do care. But at some point, you have to have a shopping bag, right?

Anyhow, the launch of a new logo does provide opportunity. It may, for example, be news to local business publications in search of content for their web edition. Of it may provide an occasion for you to reassert your position and remind consumers of your features and benefits. It may not be news, but it may provide and occasion for launching news.

To recap. I love logos. I love what logos can do. And I would not try to go to market without one. They just aren’t news. Probably.

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