I know, I know, it’s a harsh title. I had to stop myself from making it even harsher, because I’m blunt like that. A title like “Does Your Logo Suck?” has more punch, but it misses the point that, if it does suck, people aren’t remembering it, or your business. And branding is all about staying on your clients’ and potential clients’ minds.
Here in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, there’s one logo that stands above all else: the University of Michigan’s Block M. In fact, in several studies, it’s seen as the most recognizable logo in college sports. So, why is that? Simply put, it’s a solid, single-colored, simple shape. It looks like a kid could’ve made it. And that helps it stick in people’s heads.
Before I go any further, let’s make one thing very clear: a logo is not a brand, a logo is a reminder of what the brand is all about. People who hear we do branding always find a way to say, “So, can you make me a logo?” The short answer is, “Yes.” The long answer is “Yup, but not until we’ve figured out what you’re passionate about, why you’re passionate about it, what your product or service is, come up with a mission, evaluate your competition, determine a target market, a tagline, what your color(s) should be, etc.” At which point they walk away.
Remember, our job is to give gutsy entrepreneurs and business owners the opportunity to live better lives, and we do that by branding the hell out of their businesses. To simply design a logo misses that point entirely, and on its own, is a waste of money.
And makes me want to kick puppies. And I like puppies. They’re adorable.
With that out of the way, let’s talk logos!
We base our logo evaluations and designs on three things:
1. Eye Science
3. The Fortune 100 List
The fact is, your eye sees red as popping forward, and blue as pushing backward. Things that are jarring to your senses, or just jarring in general, get remembered easier. And once again, branding is all about staying on your clients’ and potential clients’ minds. Black and white are decent choices because they, too, are a bit jarring.
Is your logo three colors or more? Does it have gradients? Does your logo have a beautiful landscape, complete with blue skies and bunnies?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, your logo’s not doing its job effectively.
When Apple first started out, their logo was an illustration of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. In the tree, was an apple surrounded by light. It’s a beautiful drawing, but a terrible logo. Now, Apple’s logo is a solid-colored black apple.
Remember, a logo doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be memorable.
I hate to say it, but we’re not interested in what the business down the street’s doing. We’re not even interested in what the business at number 219’s doing. We’re interested in what the big guns are doing, because that’s where we want our clients to be. And the big guns love red, blue, black and white!
Let’s start with Walmart, which tops the Fortune 100 list, and also has a commanding lead in the “Most likely to get shanked in the store on Black Friday” category. Their primary color is blue, with their secondary color being yellow.
ExxonMobil is number two, and leads the oil category. Their color is red. Chevron, at the number three spot, is blue and red. It’s sort of the like the cola wars, where Coca-Cola’s red and Pepsi-Cola’s blue and red, which makes one think you should pick one color or the other – probably red – for the number one spot, but not both.
The number four spot, with a reddish logo, is Berkshire Hathaway. Apple rounds out the top five, with a simple black logo.
I took a screen grab of a spreadsheet we created looking at, and counting / tracking, all the colors used in the Fortune 100’s logos. Below is said spreadsheet detailing what we found. Full disclosure, by the way: white may have a higher count than it should, because we counted the colors used in negative space. Even so, white’s definitely a player. We also counted colors used in icons as primary colors, even if the word mark had more of certain color. Primarily, the word marks were black. For instance, we counted orange as the primary color in Amazon, even though the word is much larger than the “smile.”
The big numbers are the following:
1. 83% of the logos used either blue (59%) or red (24%) as their primary color.
2. 17% of the logos used green (6%), purple (3%), yellow (2%), orange (2%), black, gray, brown, and gold (all 1%) as their primary color.
3. White was the number one secondary color, with black being number two.
4. 79% of the logos used two colors or less
5. 10% of the logos used gradients. Those companies – Chevron, General Motors, Ford, Kroger, UPS, Pfizer, Cisco, Tesoro, AllState, and DirecTV – are all very well-know, with the possible exception of Tesoro, and can get away with it.
With all that information, our recommendations are almost always to use red or blue as your primary color, with black or white being your secondary color. And for the love of branding, keep it simple!
Because that’s what the big guns do.
And you deserve to party with the big guns. Because the big guns get free drinks.