Your logo should say who you are and not what you do

One of the biggest changes for any organisation that is considering a new logo, is top accept that the logo doesn’t need to say what you do, and just concentrate on letting it say who you are.

Look in the yellow pages and you will see many, many ‘logos’ where there is a person with a hammer or spanner or pipe wrench next to the name of their company. These don’t say who you are, just what trade you practice. They make it impossible to extend into another area without causing confusion, but they still proliferate in ‘trade’ markets.

The really rather excellent Mr Plumber logo - A role model for any designer

By removing the ‘what you do’ element, you have to work harder to explain this, and so the second option is to introduce the strapline to attempt to explain the services offered, or the ‘what you do’.

There are hundreds of examples out there.

‘Britain’s favourite retailer’ by Tesco

This line allows them to say what they do without having to say underneath the name on the front of the shops.

It is very rare to see a logo out of context anyway. You would normally see a Tesco logo on a store, a pack a vehicle or an advertisement, so the logo is simply an identifier to say that it is ‘one of theirs’. The branding work comes in saying what can be expected by choosing a Tesco product over any other one.

A strapline is quite different to a campaign slogan such as
‘Vorsprung durch technik’ that Audi have used since the 1970’s. This was already on the wall of the factory when their German design agency MetaDesign went for a factory tour. They saw that it summed up what the business was all about and their living the brand ever since has been part of the reason for their growth to become one of the biggest car makers in Europe from their humble roots as the fabulously mad little NSU luxury car brand and their hugely innovative but incredibly unreliable RO80 Wankel engined car of the late 1960’s.

Their chosen phrase actually means ‘Advancement through Technology’ and as such, does not actually explain what the business does. The slogan therefore just adds a little more layering to the brand by way of an advertisement theme.

The big brands such as Tesco become known for ‘what they do’ because of their scale, visibility on the high streets and the (omni)presence delivered by big marketing budgets.

But when Tesco lunch into another country, they invariably work under another brand name or with a local partner. Jack Welch, in another of his Podcasts argues that it is ALWAYS more effective to buy local talent in the target market than it is to try and import it, citing their plastics businesses opening in China as a real life example.

When Tesco went to the US, they started under the brand name of Fresh & Easy, launching a much smaller format store to those they are known for in the UK and starting out from California. They therefore face the same issues as any start up. They may be better financed, but they still have to prove and refine their offer in order for them to begin to roll it out nationally. Even Tesco don’t have deep enough pockets to attempt this with a flawed or unpopular concept.

It is often argued that smaller companies can’t go down the ‘who you are’ route because they don’t have the marketing budgets of the likes of Tesco. We would argue that they could make their smaller budgets both more cost effective now and more valuable in the future, by concentrating on the ‘who you are’ now.

Focussing on a one or very few key message will always make marketing more effective and make what you do spend work in a more focussed way.

Without the ‘who you are’ you can only sell ‘what you do’. This limits the growth and expansion possibilities of your brand.

Potential customers who like what they see in the ‘who’, will go the extra mile and find out more about you, what you do and what you stand for. This creates devoted customers who both love and understand your brand.