Updated: Jul 15, 2019
President and Chief Creative Officer, KickCharge® Creative.
You’ve heard the saying about how we get only one chance to make a good first impression. For a small business, branding is that opportunity. And more often than not, it’s a missed opportunity.
In my opinion, roughly 95 percent of small businesses have a poor logo -- meaning it delivers a neutral or negative brand promise. If your business is in the minority and embraces the power of its brand, this is great news, because you’re already standing out.
A strong brand, after all, inspires consumers who have no prior knowledge or experience with your company to believe that you deliver an amazing product or service.
What's more, without a strong logo, you may never get the chance to prove your quality to consumers. If your branding does not make it look like you do great work, consumers may choose a competitor instead.
Give your brand the attention it deserves.
"Giving attention" means that the logo you choose to represent your business won't be an afterthought; instead, it will define your whole brand.
Yes, starting or growing a business is an arduous experience that involves many considerations and a careful use of precious resources. But when making decisions about how to invest your time, energy and capital, you should remember that in today’s marketplace, you cannot afford to shortchange your branding. It’s likely the single most important decision you’ll make.
Follow these five tips to create a logo that will build a strong foundation for your brand, and ultimately will empower your business to thrive.
1. Don’t be generic.
First, make sure that your logo is clear and easy to interpret, because you don’t have the years of brand recognition behind you that ensure that people will associate your name with your product or service.
Second, unlike large companies, you don’t have the large advertising budget required to brand icons too generic to help consumers understand the nature of your business.
In short, then, your logo needs to convey what you do and who you are, and leave a positive brand impression. That’s why small business logo design is a different animal from corporate logo design. Corporations can throw enough money into marketing to ensure that people associate any symbol or graphic with their name.
Small businesses don’t have that luxury: Each impression is so important. You need to very quickly connect with your audience members and give them something to latch on to -- at the same time that you give them something disruptive in your competitive space.
2. Pick typography that reflects what you stand for.
The vast majority of small business brands are built upon two primary elements: their typographic elements and their graphic or iconic element. Together, these factors form the basic structure for most logo designs.
Next to the graphical element or icon, the typography used in your logo design is the most critical choice that a designer makes in representing your small business brand. Typography communicates much about your brand -- whether it’s a brand that's whimsical or elegant, established or common, fresh or futuristic. Your typography should be in harmony with, and balance with, the graphic or icon in order to optimize the audience’s first impression.
3. Choose colors wisely.
Certain industries have very typical color palettes that are traditional to their industry. For example, heating and air conditioning companies often use red and blue in their branding.
But, try to think outside of the box when devising your brand colors. Look closely at your competitors, then choose a color scheme unlikely to be confused with that of existing brands. Again, think about being disruptive in your space by choosing unique hues.
4. Consider how your logo will be used.
Whenever possible, avoid using a logo that requires a lot of explanation. If your small business relies on outdoor media, such as signs or vehicles, a memorable icon is especially important. It should link the viewer to the message, quickly and efficiently. One simple test is to cover up the lettering and simply look at the graphic. Does it give the viewer an idea as to the nature of the business?
It’s also vitally important to think about the big picture. How is your logo going to look in the various executions of the brand? Will it thrive in one format but suffer in another? Or, are there certain marketing channels you might use in the future, wherein the logo will need to work well? Consider these future projects before finalizing your logo design:
Business cards and stationery: Think of how your logo will appear on your card. Think in terms of different features, such as two-sided cards, rounded corners and unique paper stocks.
Signage: Resist the urge to modify your logo’s proportions to fit the available space.
Vehicles: Make sure your trucks are designed to stand out rather than fit in, with your branding as the primary message.
Uniforms: Employees are your brand ambassadors, so make sure they are dressed neatly and professionally -- and all brand colors are integrated.
Web design: Your website should integrate your branding in its design and architecture, and should clearly and thoroughly relay your brand promise.Social media: Change your logo on your profiles and use your social media channels to announce your new look.
5. Hire a pro.
With so much of your success riding on how well your branding performs, this isn’t the place to cut corners. Yet, so many businesses look for the least expensive option, because they don’t understand the value of a good brand and how it will affect their chances of success.
The most important part of any branding exercise is an open dialogue between the brand strategist and the client. Choose a firm where you will speak directly with the person developing your brand. Make sure all artwork created is original, not derived from clip art. Choose a firm with a thorough understanding of all those applications where your brand eventually will be deployed.
Build a foundation.
With so many small businesses suffering from poor brands, you have the opportunity to be unique and stand out. One look at your logo should provide a reasonable expectation of a good experience. The logo is the hub for your brand and sets the stage for all of your strategic messaging.
If you create a logo that will build a strong foundation for your brand, you will empower your business to thrive.