As we have noted ad nauseum, brands and logos are not the same, and a logo does not a brand make. That said, visually distinctive logos and great design are essential brand-building tools. They serve as essential touchstones that over time signal and express the brands they embody and represent. Yet in the business of brand-building, there are few elements so cursed with the elastic pricing and value of logos.
What’s a logo worth? Well how much would you like to pay? Let’s start at $1 million, as Pepsi purportedly paid Arnell Group to tweak their iconic logo. Or on the other end of the spectrum, how about $5 instead? Maybe a contest offering $35 for the winning logo? (Perhaps the $35 amount is a homage to the $35 Phil Knight paid for 17.5 hours — yep $2 an hour, but it was 1971 — of graphic designer Carolyn Davidson’s time to create the Nike logo). 99 logos for $295 in under a week with a money-back guarantee? Better yet, since this is the Internet, why not . . . free, not surprisingly from the “[f]astest growing LOGO site in the world”!
Which brings us to a potential new nadir for the art and science of logo development. BioQuip Products: “Equipment, Supplies and Books for Entomology and the Related Sciences” (since 1947) is launching a new BioQuipBugs (now that is a tight brand architecture — bugs vs. products) division that will offer “9,000 listings of insects and other invertebrate species from the U.S. and around the world.” But instead of hiring a branding firm or a graphic designer to create the new logo, Bioquip is holding a contest to which you, dear reader are invited! Until March 15, 2012, you may submit your best logo designs for a potential prize of $100 in “merchandise certificates” redeemable for bugs and bug-related products. Now as much as we might covet the prospect of winning some mugs featuring the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex (disease-bearing genera of mosquito) or a bunch of earwigs preserved in alcohol, even in aggregate it is painfully meager recompense for developing a logo that ultimately devalues both the process and the profession.
Remember, a logo is not simply a pretty picture; it is a solution to a communications challenge. A logo needs to underscore, signal or, better yet, express the value proposition for the brand it represents. Unlike Nike, most companies do not have the resources to invest $2.5 billion annually in seeding brand “demand creation” (including advertising). There are great companies with terrible logos (we’ll refrain from the rotten tomatoes), but why make a brand work harder, laboring under the burden of a nonsensical or even mediocre logo? In an environment where businesses are demanding an ever-greater ROI from their investment in marketing, a thoughtful, proprietary identity sets a solid brand foundation and enlists the logo asan asset in advancing the brand rather than an appendage along for the ride.
Identity design may not be rocket science, but it is still hard work. It requires a clear idea to inform its development. It requires identity design talent — preferably from multiple designers who will attack the problem differently based on their experience, unique style and analysis — time and trial and error to find the ultimate right fit that serves as a visual imprimatur and calling card for the brand.
If you’re interested in some of the logos we’ve created and the brands we’ve built, visit BrandCulture.com and click on “Work.” But at the very least, when you’re thinking of creating or redoing a logo, don’t try to crowdsource one for $100 in bugs. Hire a professional instead. As is the case with many things, you get what you pay for.