Should You Invest a Lot in Your Logo?

A recent discussion has popped up on one of the video forums I frequent. A couple of the members have each posted a set of new logo options they had developed, and they were asking for input from the community. Nothing big there. Except, these logos were developed at two different online logo contest sites, Logo Sauce and Logo Tournament. The amount of money they were paying: $250 and $350 respectively.

The question arose from another forum member whether this approach cheapens their brand? Should something as important as your logo be left to any old graphic designer out there willing to make a logo for a few hundred bucks? An excellent question. For what it’s worth, here’s my take.

A LOGO DOES NOT A BRAND MAKE

First and foremost, a brand is so much more than just a logo. Or your website. Or  your business card. At it’s essence, a brand is a feeling that a person has when they come in contact with any part of  your business. It’s an overall experience. You communicate and build your brand in every interaction a client has with you. So, it’s too simple a question just to ask if one should spend a lot of money on a logo. A better question is, “how much are you investing in your whole brand experience, and HOW are you creating it.” With that in mind, here are three points to consider regarding logo creation (IMHO):

It’s the process, not the payment: how much money you’re investing in a logo is less important than the process in which you are developing it. Do the designers you’ve hired have a good understanding of your business, your brand, your clientele, and their interests? Are you developing this logo in a vacuum, or are you doing it in conjunction with an entire campaign (e.g. website, collateral, copy, etc.)? I think in general it holds true that, you’ll get what you pay for, but depending on your business, the amount you’re investing in the logo part may not be as important as other parts. Which leads me to point #2.

In this business (weddings), the mark doesn’t matter: oooh, this one may raise an eyebrow or two. But I contend that for businesses which cater primarily to brides (as these two videographers’ businesses do), the actual visual mark they create for their logo is probably one of the least important aspects of their brand. Here’s why. I believe a memorable logo is best suited for products or services where there is frequent and repeat business from the same client, or if that logo helps the product/service stand out in a sea of competitors. When you’re driving down the I-5 from San Francisco to L.A., your stomach grumbling from hunger, you want to quickly notice those “golden arches” in that oasis of fast food restaurants. When you’re shopping in your favorite athletic store, you want to quickly find that Nike “swoosh.” When you’re walking down the cereal aisle and looking at the hundreds of options, you want to quickly zoom in on that big, red “K.” Or, if you’re in the market for a new car, and you see a sleek sedan from the side, considering how much alike auto bodies are nowadays, you want to see that “blue and white  checker patten” and know from seeing it the quality of the car. In all of these examples, the associated marks drum up feelings and thoughts about the product instantly that help in you making a decision.

Now, if you’re a wedding vendor like a photographer or videographer, chances are, that client is only going to hire you once. Sure, some of them may hire you again for an anniversary or birthday, and many of you may also do portrait photography which definitely could be repeat business (and even then it’s their experience with you the first time that’s making them come back).  But on the whole, with respect to those of you focused on weddings, that client is only going to hire you once. Therefore, I contend that  having a memorable and powerful logo is not as important as the other parts of your brand experience. (Note: I’m not saying it’s NOT important, I’m saying it’s not AS important). Which segues into point #3.

Edify the experience: with respect to a wedding-oriented business, I think the entire experience in dealing with your company is way more valuable than a cool logo. From their first encounter with your brand on your website, to their meeting with  you or telephone calls, to the experience on the wedding day–all of these are the facets of your business that will have the greatest impact on whether a prospect hires you. Maybe even more so than your actual work. (I’m sure that comment won’t sit well with some of you.😉

SO, WHERE SHOULD  YOU DROP THE DOUGH?

Given the three points above then, spending a few hundred dollars for a logo isn’t necessarily a bad investment, nor an unwise marketing move. Again, so long as you’re paying close attention to points #1 and #3. If you are in the wedding business and you’re going to spend some serious moolah on your brand, I suggest putting it in the following experience edifiers:

  • Website: if you’ve been paying attention to this blog for the last few weeks, you know how I feel about this. A unique website which creates a great visiting experience for your prospect will be one of the best investments you can make.
  • Environment: where you meet with your prospects, whether it’s  studio or your living room, is a significant part of the brand experience. Invest in furnishings and details that will make your prospect know feel like they are getting star treatment.
  • Collateral: the quality of your business cards, stationery, and any other marketing materials you pass along to a prospect will have a huge impact on their buying decision. Especially if you’re in any kind of creative business like photography, videography, floral design, etc. If your business cards are cheap and flimsy, what does that communicate about the final product your client will get.
  • Packaging: it goes without saying that how you deliver the final product is huge. Everything from the case you put that final DVD or CD in, or the album the photos go in, to the way it’s wrapped, what you include with the final product in the shipping box, etc. Make a statement. Especially considering that if you give your client multiple DVDs/albums, etc., that’s more people being exposed to your brand.
  • Project/Customer Management: invest in a customer relationship and project management system that will allow you to deliver optimum service to your clients. Whether it’s remembering little details of their wedding (because you typed notes in your system); or sending out b-day cards; making it easy for them to sign a contract; giving them the ability to see the status of their project; or enabling YOUR team to stay up to date so you can deliver the final product on time. Programs like ShootQ, Basecamp, and Highrise are great for small businesses.
  • A Video: (you know I had to say it.🙂 ) A well crafted video, that is unique, and communicates who the real YOU is, will endear prospects to you and your business, will increase the efficiency of the selling process, and can be used as a viral marketing tool to work for you even while you sleep.

I will go so far as to say that as a wedding vendor, if  you’ve done all these other things right, it doesn’t even matter if  you have a logo mark. So, if you can get a decent looking one that fits your brand and then only fork out 2 or 3 Benjamins for it, that’s pretty good business if you ask me.

One last note: Nike paid just $35 for their logo (even adjusted for inflation, that would be only about a couple hundred dollars or less today). What makes that logo as powerful and meaningful as it is today is due to all the other experience-edifiers in which the company has invested through the years. Food for thought.

18 thoughts on “Should You Invest a Lot in Your Logo?

  1. Nice article Ron! I’m getting ready to launch a new brand. I’ve spent a lot of time developing the website and coming up with cohesive marketing materials. It’s a bit of an arduous process, but it so necessary as you say. I think for the logo, it needs to communicate what you do or what you are about quickly and positively. It can speak instantaneously to the viewer. A logo is like a little glimpse into your company brand. It’s like a flash… poof… here I am. I agree though that the experience behind the logo is key. A logo is the sign on the door. The experience is when you walk in.

  2. Well said, Ron. I like your list of important items. This was a nice reminder to keep the big picture in mind and make sure every touchpoint with the client is sending your consistent message.

  3. Very thoughtful Ron. While I certainly paid attention to what you said about logos, your comments on other factors really grabbed my attention. Little things like delivery. Right now I just put the DVDs in a padded envelope and mail them. Not very impressive. My business is part-time, but I want to convey total professionalism. BTW, I am working on another website makeover. I did one a few months ago, but am not happy with it. Too much going on. The approach that I am working on now is to keep it simple but elegant.

  4. Without getting into the actual topic you are discussing, there is another aspect to this debate that I think is important – the graphic designers and how they are impacted. I am not a graphic designer. I am quite proficient in the tools of the trade and can certainly design things (and do on occasion), but I am not a designer. Just as I could go to Home Depot and buy the tools to build a house, that does not make me a carpenter that is qualified to build houses for people. Logo Sauce, Logo Tournament and other sites like this are cheapening an art form that takes more time and talent than what a few hundred dollars on an online spec service can provide.

    So I agree that a logo mark is perhaps not the most important aspect of a wedding videographer’s brand. But if they are going to have one, it should be a good one that is professionally crafted and represents the brand to it’s fullest. I might get a lot of disagreement on this one, but a professional and meaningful logo that has been researched to represent the brand, simply cannot be created through a competition online for $350. These types of sites hurt graphic designers in the long run and as fellow artists and professionals, consider the impact that using one of these sites has on other professional artists. Just my 2c….

  5. You’re right – the logo doesn’t make the brand. But going down the path of “why pay top cash money for a good logo if it doesn’t matter that much” will quickly lead one into dangerous territory.

    As much as the content of the logo is largely irrelevant (a logo derives meaning from the organization it represents), a WELL-DESIGNED logo is just as much a reflection of its wearer.

    It’s the reason why there’s a huge difference between driving a Sebring convertible and a Porsche 993. Or buying a suit from Walmart vs. visiting your local, talented tailor.

  6. I really appreciated working with a graphic designer who included logo creation and brand identification as part of a website build. It was crucial to our business that our main storefront was cohesive with the logo we use on our our collateral material. What really brings the brand home is that our studio and meeting space is painted to match the detail elements of our website.

    I don’t think you have to pay a ton for a logo, either, but your logo HAS to be well-integrated into your brand and vice-versa. Sometimes you can do that cheaply, sometimes you can’t.

  7. Agreed, your brand is SO much more than just a logo!

    If a goal of your brand is differentiation, which it should be, then ensuring your identity (usually embodied in a logo) is the most remarkable and interesting possible should be a critical point. You can pay bottom dollar for a logo, but you will get bottom dollar ideas and trendy style with little to no shelf life. If you invest more you get not only distinct positioning and ideas you get sustainability. I personally choose to invest more to ensure value, as opposed to spending less and flushing it down the toilet.

    We constantly get returning prospects utterly disappointed with the logo they had designed two years ago with the trendy shadow effect that is now meaningless.

    Ultimately, a logo is a reflection of the company. If the company is great, they usually value their positioning in the market place and recognize the desperate need to be distinct. Mediocre companies fail to value distinction, not just in their identity, but in their product/ service offering, values, and vision. It’s amazing to see the correlation.

  8. @Matt – if you had told me if you could get a decent logo for $300, I’d say “heck no!” Then I saw some of the options these two videographers were presented. Granted, a lot of it was crap. But there were a LOT of really good design among the bunch. I was quite shocked actually.

    Let’s face it, service providers like graphic designers, website designers, and videographers for that matter cannot change the wave of changing times. We now have sites like Animoto that can do slideshows that years ago would have cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in labor to created. Now, for $25, you can get an unlimited number every year. How long do you think it will be before they can implement videos vs. just photos? Not long. And let’s not even go into what the template site busiiness has done for website designers.

    I guess I’m saying, I don’t feel sorry for those graphic designers. I’m in their same boat. Technology is making it so that things people paid top dollar for, they no longer do. It’s up to me to keep up and evolve my business so that it’s not affected by those changes.

    And don’t get me started on the “art form” debate. Bottom line, it’s a business. I don’t want to sound cold-blooded or anything, nor that I don’t appreciate the work that goes into it. But, frankly, we live in a world were if you make a living selling “art,” chances are you’re going to be a starving artist. Logo design may be an art form, but at its core, it’s a service for businesses to market themselves. As the economy ebbs and flows, those businesses are going to make decisions that effect those of us that earn a living from them. So, I have two choices. I could cry fowl, you’re hurting an art form, or I can come up with a way to roll with the punches and adapt. Adapt or die. Plain and simple.

  9. Your logo is of capital importance in the world of copy-cat brands and similar-looking motifs.

    For my company, I chose a logo that is radically different than that of other videography companies and on many occasions, after I hand out my card to a prospective bride, she exclaims, “Oh YOU’RE Studio MSV! I saw your ad in [a magazine]!”

    She probably wouldn’t have said that or noticed my logo if my logo was like so many other ‘retro chic’ logos out there today. I mean, really; is there a distinct differnce between this (http://www.swsmag.net/), this (http://www.weddingchicks.com/), and this (http://www.stylemepretty.com/)? I contend there isn’t.

    At any rate, I hold to the idea that the mark DOES matter and it matters a great deal.
    In your own metaphor, you said being able to find that ‘red K’ in a sea of cereal boxes is crucial for repeat business. I suggest it’s just as critical in weddings to make that initial (and, perhaps, ONLY) impression.

  10. Matt,
    I have to disagree with your comments. The graphic designers have to deal with adjustments to their business model just like everyone else. It’s a major problem and one of the reasons we see less and less quality brick and mortor businesses.

    Travel agents, pawn shops, and retail businesses felt the pinch a couple of years ago and now it’s really getting to all sectors. Many business like Blockbuster will likely go bankrupt this year because they can’t compete with the low overhead of the online world. Granted it’s buyer beware but people will take chances to save a buck.

    It’s simply cheaper to pay someone sitting at home creating designs in their underwear over paying someone sitting at a desk in a building paying rent, utilities, employees etc…

    Eventually the government will dig into this market and you will see big licenses and fees to do any trade on the internet, and I’m guessing most “real” businesses can’t wait.

  11. @blake – first, I’m truly honored you visited my little blog. I love the stuff you guys do, and I’m looking forward to meeting you. (I highly recommend visitors check out their work).

    Second, I would state that in the wedding world, sustainability won’t come from your logo. One of the most successful wedding photographers in the country is Chris Becker (aka The Becker). I would guess 99.9% of the photographers reading this blog know his famous [b] logo. It’s design and elegance are “legendary” in the photo world. And he pimps that [b]ad [b]oy everywhere.🙂 But, at WPPI, at a branding seminar given by Kevin Swan, Kevin pointed out (and Becker agreed), that his bridal clients don’t know his logo and couldn’t necessarily recall it. In the photo world, for Becker’s products and services to photographers, that [b] logo does everything you talk about. For his wedding business, it’s a whole different story.

    So, if a small photography studio only has say $3,000 to invest in their brand, if they put all of it into the other things I said, and just type their business name in Minion font for their “logo”, that would be a better investment than spending $3k on a mark.

    Now, the good news for companies like yours is that, you provide much of the other key services needed to build a good brand (website design, copy, positioning, etc.) So, again, my primary point is, have a whole brand strategy in mind, and within that context, for a wedding-focused business, IMHO, if your logo isn’t a big part of your investment, that’s okay.

  12. @Andrew – you make a great point about the advertising. I’ll give you that. A distinct mark can help you stand out in a sea of advertising. But, as I stated in my post, and I’ll repeat it here, I didn’t say a mark wasn’t important. I said it’s not AS important. AND I said it should be done in the context of a whole brand campaign.

    Are you saying then, that investing in a top dollar logo is more important than the other experience edifiers I mentioned. Should I spend more on my logo than my website? My collateral? The packaging I ship my final product in? I say, for this business, the answer is no.

    Most wedding vendors will tell you that networking and word of mouth is way more important than advertising in this business. Many top dollar photographers make a point to say they do NO advertising. One of the videographers I alluded to in this article is wildly successful, gets top dollar, and I’m pretty sure does no advertising (or very little). So, especially in a case like this, the logo is of less importance.

    I think the graphic designer in you is more sensitive to this subject, which makes sense. But, I think reality supports my argument. Look at the most successful wedding photographers and videographers around. How much of an impact really do you think their logo has? I’d say small compared to the other aspects of their brand they’ve created. I don’t think their logo at all is of “capital” importance to their business, or their brand.

    Oh, and by the way, with regard to F-Stop Beyond’s “brand,” I’d say it’s different, frustrating, challenging, fun, and eye-opening. It bucks the trend. But, I’ll also say that I have not invested any money (yet) in developing the FSB brand. Mainly because it’s a labor of love vs. a core business center. Yes, it does play a marketing role in our overall business, but until it becomes a significant profit center, using a rarely used WordPress template is the most I can justify investing in it.

  13. Ron, I agree with you for the most part.
    Besides being a video and audio production company, I am also first and foremost a graphic designer for a medical direct mail company specializing in alternative medicine. Part of my job description, besides developing artwork, printed mail pieces, web and print design, is also being able to dvelop and branding identity for each doctor line.
    To me in essence your company logo is intricately tied to your company branding.
    One of the first things that a potential client will see when they visit your website will most likely be your logo, in some shape or form. And as for collateral material, such as business cards, letterhead, brochures, your company logo will most definitely be seen first, especially on a business card. As such your logo has to convey your company identity and should set you apart in some way as a leader in your given field from the competition.

    Now like anything developing a brand takes time, and a logo is only one part of it. Companies such as Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds, Nike etc. didn’t develop the brand overnight, but rather part of a marketing campaign in which the logo was prominent in all of their advertising. Over time people came to recognize the company by their logo first and foremost.

    The same can be tied to developing a video companies branding.
    Many who do weddings, chose to ahve a silouette of a bride & groom, or heaven forbid a video camera as part fo their logo.

    Myself, used to incorperate a film reel as part fo my logo and scripted font for the company name.

    I since have changed direction and focused more on branding my company as a video company and not just a wedding video company. As such I wanted to develop a name logo that could be used in various ways in my promotions and advertising campaigns. This meant being able to pull my company name (LV Productions), as just the LV, also display it in horizontal and vertical formation. And it also had to translate from 4 color, to two color, to black and white.

    The initial website is developed for brides, but a cooperate one is in the works with the same design elements, but copy and artwork geared towards cooperate non-wedding clients.

    I have seen too many, especially lately, wedding video companies trying to incorporate their wedding video identity into a cooperate design, and it simply does not work. As their logo and colors don’t translate well to non-weding usage.

    So I think it’s important that when someone wants to develop a company identity that they should think about their overall target market, if your not just a wedding video company, but a video company. So develop your company identity around this first,a and then develop the various campaigns (copy, brochures, business cards, work samples, websites etc., around your new identity.

  14. Ron, this statement of yours is erroneous:

    “Let’s face it, service providers like graphic designers, website designers, and videographers for that matter cannot change the wave of changing times. We now have sites that can do slideshows that years ago would have cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in labor to created.”

    You’re equating graphic design to computer proficiency, which is just flat out wrong. Technological advancement and increased computer literacy has produced many so-called “designers” recently. But more so than not, these folks are merely Photoshop wizards, not graphic designers.

    What you’re missing is the fact that good design has nothing to do with computers. It’s about ideas. There is a ton of education, practice, training, thinking, and, here’s the kicker… intuitive talent.

    A $300 Logo Tournament logo looks decent to Sidewalk Joe because it’s essentially a copycat of “web 2.0” or whatever is hot at the time. It’s familiar, if it’s a decent reproduction, somewhat technically sound.

  15. great article Ron. Really nicely put.

    When you talk about investment with your brand (logo, packaging, etc) I think it is crucial to make a HUGE investment…. but not necessarily financial. The investment needs to be of your TIME.

    Time to research and map out who/what/where/how. And making sure that through all of it, you’ve developed a layered, multifunctional marketing plan that is Authentic. This is a huge investment in my opinion because let’s face it….it’s hard!

    One of the problems I’ve had with the wedding videography world was that it seemed to ‘krafty’. It was like a big lanyard making party aesthetically… everything appeared dated, homemade and unprofessional.

    With my own companies Bliss* (www.blissproductions.com) & Get Hitched! Films (www.gethitchedfilms.com) I worked very hard with different designers to create memorable and unique logo that showed the point of view of my work most importantly….. spoke to my demographic. This is also where Andrew’s (StudioMSV) comment comes into play. He built a logo that was authentic and memorable and from there is able to build a brand.

    There are many approaches and philosophies with brand building, but I think that we can all agree the most important thing is dedicating your time to make it truly successful.

  16. Hey Al,

    Actually, it’s not really wrong. Isn’t it computer efficiency that has made sites like Template Monster, Blu Domain, and other template based web developers possible? And their sites look pretty darn good. They can offer low cost web sites because of technology. My comparison in terms of logo design was more to the point of sites like Logo Sauce where, like template websites, one can get an inexpensive logo. That is a fact of life a graphic designer offering logo development must consider.

    Trust me, I am well aware of the value of good graphic design and the power of ideas. We changed our focus as a company from “video production company” to “new media marketing” agency precisely because of that point. We’re an idea company. That’s what our clients are investing in. I made that change because I realized that clients who just wanted a camera jockey would hire my contractors instead of coming back to my company. That is the nature of the business. If we do gigs all around the country, and assign a contractor to shoot it, chances are the client may hire JUST that contractor again, as opposed to coming back to me. So, I had to change the direction of my business and focus on clients who want the value of our ideas. Something they can ONLY get from us directly. That’s why we turned our attention to servicing a higher end corporate clientele that needs those ideas, not just someone with a Canon A1 and a 35mm adapter.

    Again with respect to technology, sites like Animoto are changing the face of video production. There are a lot of small videography studios who made a lot of money off of slideshows. Not anymore. Once they incorporate the ability to include moving video, the game is going to change even more.

    So, bottomeline, I agree with you. The companies with the ideas are the ones that are going to survive. Ideas are valuable. Ideas are worth investing in.

    But, I think people are losing sight of my point. I’m talking about a very SPECIFIC thing here. Logo design as it applies to a wedding-related business. I”m in no way minimizing the importance of good logo design in general, and definitely not minimizing the importance of good graphic design on a larger scale. But, if a graphic designer gets his/her income solely from logo work, they’re going to HAVE to change things up. I’m just being real.

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