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Your Logo is More Than What it Seems

June 3, 2011

Brand awareness, brand recognition, and ultimately brand equity lies within the power of your business logo. While there are many marketing techniques to augment your brand reputation, having a logo that speaks to people with consistency and marketability is a key element. How important is your brand logo? Ask McDonald’s, Nike, Adidas, or Starbucks.


In the beginning, the logo is nothing more than an image on a product or website. It’s a sidebar, a piece of an enormous marketing puzzle. In the beginning, the voice comes from the story, not the logo.

However, over time this changes and transforms, and the logo becomes the voice, the reputation, the one thing that everyone will recognize and associate with your brand. “Branding” products with this logo basically gives that product your personal seal of approval, which as your company grows encourages and entrusts customers to buy anything and everything with that logo.


The Logo and The Brand

The logo is the brand, the image that becomes recognized and associated with your message. Whether that message is Just Do It, promoting sports and a competitive nature, or something “timeless” that “represents a classic style” of clothing such as the Gap logo (before the Gap Logo Controversy), the logo is everything.


Getting it done right the first time is paramount, and should you need to change it along the way be sure to do your market research and understand how the change will affect your overall brand reputation.


Case Study #1: Towards the end of last year, Gap decided to change its brand logo. According to, gap just stuck the logo no their website without bothering to tell anyone they were rebranding, or why. The Gap logo, which represents classic, clean, sophisticated clothing styles, was simple and elegant. It was recognized and had earned a great deal of brand equity. After the logo change, advocates of the brand were more than upset. Gap seemed to ignore their audience and the brand’s success as they changed the logo. However, due to the horrible response and unwanted news coverage of the controversy, Gap changed the logo back to the original and tried to save some face.

retail logos


Case Study #2: Starbucks has been successfully altering its brand logo since its inception many years ago. If you think about it, Starbucks is one of the very few companies that has been able to alter its logo without altering its brand recognition, which is truly amazing. In 1971, the logo came with the words “Starbucks, Coffee, Tea, Spices” and was brown. In 1987 that logo was successfully changed to be less ‘revealing’ and included simply the company name. In 1992 they changed the logo again by ‘zooming in’ on the sea nymph in the center. And, finally, the most recent change has come this year as Starbucks has removed all words from the logo.


Why so many changes for the Starbucks logo? And how have they been so successful? The most recent change is intended to make the logo more international by removing all English words (aka: the company name). The change has also allowed the brand to evolve “to a point where the coffee association is too confining and restrictive. Starbucks is fundamentally selling an experience, but by no means is coffee the only part of the experience. It is important that they not have a logo that is too confining,” says a Harvard Business School marketing professor.


Starbucks has been so successful at altering their brand logo simply because they do it with respect to their audience and respect to the brand message. It’s a balancing act, but one that Starbucks has perfected.