How does a logo help your brand? The truth is, it doesn’t. At least, not on its own. Spending money on a logo that you hope will elevate your brand is a poor investment. Without a strong purpose or a powerful meaning behind it, the logo falls flat. Instead of communicating something concrete, it becomes an untethered image that requires an explanation to be fully understood.
And no matter how beautiful it is, a logo that lacks meaning can actually have an adverse effect on your brand.
Your logo won’t make or break your company, and your company doesn’t need a logo to become a brand. So how does a company transform into a brand? Through its purpose. Your purpose is how you unite your team, inspire others, and create community. When you know what your values are, you can stand behind them firmly and build trust by taking actions that reflect those core beliefs. When a company looks, sounds, and acts the part, the people around it—both inside and outside—have feelings about that company.
Those feelings are what we mean when we talk about your brand.
Any kind of experience with a product or company can lead to positive or negative feelings. These emotions are extremely complex, and they take up a lot of brain space and energy. Psychologically, the brain needs to file these emotions away so it can reference them quickly in the future, like a mental bookmark.
This kind of emotional data is too complex for the brain to store it as short-term memory, so it’s stored in the hippocampus instead. The hippocampus is the part of your limbic system that turns short-term memories into long-term memories, and later helps you retrieve those memories.
When your brain needs to reference that emotional experience it filed away, the hippocampus can retrieve the memory in a fraction of a second. Have you ever smelled something that instantly transported you to your childhood? Maybe you’ve been transported back to Grandma’s kitchen by the scent of freshly baked cookies, or maybe a specific perfume brings back touching memories of an ex.
These mental bookmarks work famously well with the sense of smell, but they also cause strong associations through sight. Biologically, the brain processes images 10,000 times faster than words.
Enter the logo.
Just like the nostalgia that rushes back in when you smell Grandma’s cookies, looking at a brand’s logo can trigger the same kind of instinctive process. Whether they realize it or not, every experience and interaction your customers have with your brand is psychologically linked to your brand’s aesthetic. Like magic, each time they see your logo their brains automatically retrieve the memory of those experiences. Those feelings instantly reemerge.
Try it for yourself. Close your eyes and reflect on the thoughts, experiences, and emotions that come up for you when you think of golden arches in the shape of a letter M.
Just the mention of golden arches probably made you think of McDonalds immediately, bringing up all your conscious and unconscious associations with and sentiments about the brand.
Human beings yearn for meaning and purpose. That’s why brands that run on purpose achieve the highest levels of success. A computer company doesn’t build a cult following by putting a fruit on its products. A coffee company doesn’t change the way people caffeinate because of a green siren. And a swoosh doesn’t inspire the world to achieve the impossible. Not on its own.
Brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Nike reach the pinnacle of success by exuding their core purpose through their companies’ pores. Don’t think of your logo as a way to get a pretty picture in front of your customer’s eyeballs. Think of it as a way to anchor their emotional experiences of your company in a visual embodiment of your purpose.
Smelling freshly baked cookies doesn’t just make you think of Grandma’s kitchen. It reminds you of Grandma’s impact on your life, of her laugh, of the face she used to make when she pinched your cheeks. If you’re communicating your purpose constantly, bringing it alive through everything your company does, your logo evolves into so much more than just a pretty picture. Over time, it becomes the mental bookmark that conjures up a palpable experience of who you are, what you do, and all the ways you make your customers feel.
Developing a logo and designing a visual identity may seem like low-hanging fruit, quick tasks that are easy to outsource, but they should actually come last in your brand’s development. A well-executed visual identity embodies your brand’s essence in the form of a memorable symbol the brain can reference.
Did you catch that key detail? You need to know what your brand’s essence is before you can execute an effective visual identity.
A memorable logo must be simultaneously simple enough to understand quickly, and complex enough to communicate what’s different about you. That’s a heavy lift, and developing a logo that’s capable of so much nuance requires deep research, keen strategy, and skilled execution.
Before you even think about design, you need to spend some serious time on discovery and strategy. These critical steps will ensure that you have a clear understanding of your purpose, your values, and your audience. Only then can you set out to create a logo that attracts, engages, and connects with the people who matter most to your company.
When we craft a visual identity at AtticSalt, we consider all of the brand strategy sessions that we conducted before the design phase. We meticulously select every single element of a design based on the message the company wants to communicate to the world. The colors and shapes we select have to do more than look good; they need to elicit a very specific emotional response from the company’s audience. Your logo represents your brand, and your brand needs to make people feel.
You have the power to choose whether or not your new logo will impact your brand. Will it tell your story? Change the way people feel about your product? Inspire a movement?
Or will it be a meaningless graphic that you crowdsourced for lunch money?
Did you know: Even Fiverrr didn’t use Fiverrr for their rebrand?
Developing a logo isn’t an instant formula for a good brand. But developing a powerful brand? That’s a tried-and-true recipe for a memorable logo. Put another way: don’t skimp on the good stuff. For Grandma’s cookies, that probably meant extra butter and sugar. The team at AtticSalt knows that if you want to build a meaningful brand, the good stuff is your purpose, your values, the experience people have of your company.
It’s getting to know your chewy center, your core message, and strategizing from there. Then you can craft a logo with the confidence that it will represent who you are to the world.
Start with your essence, and your brand can do anything.
(We can help with that.)
Someone will be in touch very soon.