brand logos

Passikoff: Logos on Fire

We looked to our Loyalty Leaders List and drilled down to examine the percent-contribution the graphic IDs that 20 brands consistently use in their marketing.

We looked to our Loyalty Leaders List and drilled down to examine the percent-contribution the graphic IDs (logos) that 20 brands consistently use in their marketing.

OK, (regrettably) everyone recognizes the “spiky ball” COVID logo – the large spherical mass with protruding red spikey suckers that was plastered across television, the internet, pretty much every day, everywhere, for a couple of years.

When that logo was introduced, the pandemic domino-effect took out the global supply chain. Toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizers, and N95 masks were in short supply. The only thing that was in abundant supply was anxiety. That logo didn’t help. But (happily) the logo’s not particularly visible or top-of-mind any more. But (undeniably) that logo became a COVID touchpoint. People reacted to it. Why?

Because logos represent many things. Part art form, part fabric of modern consciousness, part culture and news, and (importantly) part of the emotional consumer experience. So, over the past two years that logo has faded from public memory. And the supply chain has gotten better. But only just. Baby formula, computer chips, bicycles, and semiconductors are still on backorder. Nearly every Fortune 1000 company has reported supply chain disruptions. Including Ford. They have things on backorder.

More specifically, Ford has their logo on backorder. Really. Ford has actually delayed delivery of vehicles because they don’t have enough of those blue oval logo badges they affix to their cars. The global auto industry has been wrestling with a lot of supply-chain disruptions, but no logos!? Marketing and brand folk understand that issue, of course. These days, cars tend to look pretty much alike. And sure, aerodynamics, government safety and fuel regulations, functionality (hello, SUVs), and the fact that desperately few consumers reward “interesting” automotive design have all contributed to a defacto automobile look. Putting an actual logo on a car is more important than ever.

All logos represent value in the form of brand recognition and emotional engagement. Logos are visual touchpoints. Like flags to nations, logos give people something in common to identify with, share, and rally around. Where the process gets blurry is when the companies mistake logos for brand elements that significantly contribute to something more than attention. Important stuff like consumer engagement, loyalty, and perceived value. To be clear, I am no Philistine. I appreciate great logo design and recognize the creative challenges involved in visually capturing a brand’s essence, personality, and meaning. The thing is, it’s equally important to measure and contextualize a logo’s role and value to the customer.

The first trademarked logo was in 1876 for Bass Brewery. A red triangle with “Bass” written underneath in a sweeping, cursive font (like Coca-Cola). I mention that because there are a lot of very famous logos that actually spell out the name of the brand. They’re “wordmarks.” Like Coca-Cola. FedEx, Disney, Uniqlo, GAP, and IBM. And, as famous and/or heralded they may be, they fall into a category known as “Lucid Logos,” i.e., if you can read, you can comprehend who the logo represents. Easy-peasy! According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 4 out of 5 consumers, 16-74 years of age have medium to high literacy skills. Meaning 80% can read the name. (Actually, there’s an additional 14% of that demographic who have “basic” literacy skills, and I’m betting they do recognize – and can read – the likes of Coca-Cola, Old Navy, the NBA, and Walmart.) But there are a lot of logos that are just symbols or pictographs.

And, yes, I do know modern marketing guidelines use different combinations of logo and name depending on the platform and creative strategy, but in this instance I thought it would be interesting (and important) to see to what extent – more precisely, what percent of contribution – a logo – just an emblem, sign, symbol, icon, or avatar – made to consumer engagement, loyalty, and profitability. And, while I recognize there’s an entire industry still tracking brand awareness, (welcome to the 21st century!) we have entered a domain where awareness is both ubiquitous and the price-of-entry to any category.

So, we looked to our Loyalty Leaders List and drilled down to examine the percent-contribution the graphic IDs that 20 brands consistently use in their marketing make when it comes to customer experience and category expectations. And, yeah, they’re all well-known brands (see the last sentence of the previous paragraph), but in this instance the logos are being adjudged by how they help the brand meet those expectations, optimize CX, and reinforce positive attitudes, emotional engagement, and consumer behaviors. You know, the stuff that underpins loyalty and sales and the raison d’être regulations Here’s what we found:

Apple   35%

Nike     33%

Mercedes-Benz   32%

USMC   30%

Tesla    29%

Chanel 28%

Polo     27%

Instagram   25%

Amazon   25%

Target   23%

McDonald’s   20%

Twitter   18%

CBS   18%

Lacoste   15%

Starbucks   13%

Chase   12%

Mastercard   11%

Facebook   6%

Airbnb   5%

Meta   3%

So, no matter if you call it a logo, symbol, icon, or avatar, no matter if it’s a swoosh on your feet, an alligator on your chest, or a piece of fruit in your pocket or on your desk, a company’s visual identity can materially influence consumer engagement and loyalty. Which does matter (a lot).

More importantly you can measure precisely that.

Robert PassikoffRobert Passikoff is founder and CEO of Brand Keys. He has received several awards for market research innovation including the prestigious Gold Ogilvy Award and is the author of 3 marketing and branding books including the best-seller, Predicting Market Success.  Robert is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.

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