Here’s a scenario we run into pretty often. A company starts out with no marketing budget. They just want to get the business rolling, so they have a friend’s son whip up a logo, some business cards, maybe build a quick website, and they’re ready to go. Fast forward a few years. The business has done well. They’ve got a steady stream of clients and good relationships. They’re ready to take the next step. They want to jump into the pool with the big boys, and decide to throw down some money on marketing.

This is where BrightBox comes in, and honestly, it’s my favorite type of client. They’re a young company, they’re feeling confident and ambitious, and the whole staff is jazzed about getting some nice materials to represent them. At this point we’ll sit down to talk about what direction they want to go in, and often one of the first questions we’ll ask is, “Have you considered updating your logo?”

The inevitable response is “Oh, we can’t change that. We’ve got too much brand equity in it.”

And that’s an understandable response. After all, this is the logo that got them where they are. This is the logo all of their current customers know and love. This logo IS their brand.

This is a big misconception that a lot of companies make, not just the young ones. Here’s a secret though.

Your logo is not your brand.

Say it with me now – “My logo is not my brand!”

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of a brand: “A brand is a collection of experiences and associations connected with a service, a person or any other entity.”

That’s a lot more than a logo. And how much “logo-equity” do you think you have? Let me pose this question. What would cause more stress to your customers – changing your logo, or getting rid of their favorite sales person? In the B2B world, where relationships are king, the logo means very little to a client compared to the comfort of knowing who’s taking their phone calls. That’s part of the “experiences and associations” connected with your service.

Here’s another example. Years ago, before BrightBox even existed, I was asked to do a website for a a guy who was starting a catering company. He gave me a business card he’d done himself with one of the worst logos I’d ever seen. It wasn’t even a logo. It was a photo he’d taken with his camera phone. When I offered to include some logo updating for him, he declined, giving me the “too much brand equity” excuse – meaning he’d handed out his card to about 20 people. And do you think a single one of those clients remembered him because of his logo? No. They loved his food, his personality, and his service. That was his brand. Those were the experiences and associations his business carried.

A lot of companies do understand this, and those companies aren’t afraid to update their logo when the time is right – even long established companies. Recently Wal Mart – one of the most well known brands in the country – changed their logo, and no one had trouble finding the stores (Drive 10 minutes in any direction. You’re there).

It doesn’t have to be drastic. Sometimes just an update will give some spark to your marketing efforts. We recently had a client come to us for  rebranding, and were open to the idea of revamping their logo. They’d been around for 40 years, and although the logo had all the right elements (unique, communicated their business’s core message/value, etc.), it looked tired and dated. We were able to come up with a new logo design that retained all of those elements, but looked fresh and current. A win/win for everybody. Yellow Book (of “Let your fingers do the walking” fame) took a similar path with their recent logo update.

Not to say that you should change your logo willy-nilly every 6 months. Sometimes NOT changing your logo can be the smart move (ask Pepsi how that new “Smile” logo is working for them). The overriding thought should always be “Does this represent our company accurately. Does this tell the story we want to tell.”  Most successful companies are in a constant state of evaluation, looking for ways improve themselves. When that company gets to the point where their logo doesn’t accurately reflect who they are – whether it’s because they’re no longer scraping by, doing the marketing themselves out of their garage, or because the company has changed direction so much that the old logo no longer applies – it’s time to let go of the past and consider something new.

The key thing to remember is that your logo is only one aspect of who your company is. It’s the stamp you put on your stuff so that people won’t confuse it with other people’s stuff. It’s one tool in your branding arsenal. The truth is, having a bad logo isn’t going to break your company anymore than having a great one will guarantee success. But, just like you want your sales literature and advertising to accurately represent your company’s values and message, your logo should do the same. Having a great “stamp” to put on your stuff shows confidence in your product, and a level of professionalism in your industry.

Ideally, your logo change would coincide with a new branding effort. As exciting as a new logo can be, changing it without any other visibility can be confusing. You want to make sure that when it’s updated, you’re not telling people with a whisper – you’re shouting it out. Show some excitement and enthusiasm! Show some confidence! If you’re really rebranding, don’t just give your audience a new logo. Give them a new experience. Give them new associations. That’s what they’ll remember.

That’s what your brand really is.

For some examples of long-established companies who have updated their logo this past year, check out this link.