Is all logos really do help identify a brand?

I find myself both agreeing violently and disagreeing with Byron Sharp again. This time the subject is naming and logos.

Byron is a "marketing scientist" and his work, including showing loyalty is equal amongst brands in a category, is some of the most thought-provoking I've come across. Its been a breath of fresh air to me this year. 

In his post Byron says "Brands, and their distinctive assets, identify – that’s it. Consumers rarely stop to think about whether the logo looks nice, trustworthy, or conveys any other connotation."

Screen shot 2011-07-06 at 11.26.42 Brand identity's main role is to identify

Here I agree 100% with Byron. The key role of brand identity is to ensure your brand is recognized at the point of purchase. It needs to be distinctive and impactful. I've posted here about the work of Andy Knowles and JKR on creating "brand-led" design where you "simplify and amplify" the key equities.

As design expert LarsWallentin rightly says, "If you can't be seen, you can't be bought"

Also, you can screw up your brand by being too clever and changing too much of your visual equity in one go. Lots of people have used Tropicana's 2009 re-design disaster as an example of this.

A lot of brand identity talk is brand bollocks

I also agree with Byron that a lot of people get paid a lot of money to over analyse logos and read much more into them than consumers ever do. 

I posted on this when discussing the new Starbucks design, which was made out by the company to be earth-shattering, when it was really a simple change.

Brands can work with any name

Byron rightly points out that many brands are successful despite having names which, when you think about it, are a bit strange. "Why America’s largest most famous burger chain has a Scottish name? Is HP Sauce sold by HP (computing) ? Do Walker’s crisps and Walker’s shortbread come from the same company ?"

The point here is that people don't think about these things. They just want to find their brand easily and confidently and get on with their lives.

This is why my brand naming criteria for new brands are very practical:

1. Can we get the name legally?

2. Is it 3-4 syllables and easy to remember?

3. Finally, is it consistent with the brand positioning (doesn't have to communicate the positioning)?

Brands identity CAN help your brand positioning

Here is where I disagree with Byron. Never one to be shy in saying what he thinks, Byron posts: "Consultants and designers who think that brand names, logos and other brand assets have any deeper intrinsic meaning are merely showing how poorly they understand real consumer behaviour, and commercial reality." Ow.

But this is just plain wrong, right?

Whilst logos and names do work at a simple level, they can help create a distinctive positioning. Whilst designers may over-sell what identity does, it can di a little bit to suggest stuff about the brand.

For example, a new design for Hungarian dairy brand Milli was less childish, suggested quality and naturalness. It was significantly preferred in quant testing versus the old one and, more importantly, versus Danone.

Screen shot 2011-07-06 at 11.41.56
JKR's re-design of John West salmon made it more distinctive (which Byron would like), but also suggested more naturalness and freshness with the "wave" device. It helped increase brand sales.

Screen shot 2011-07-06 at 11.39.30
In conclusion, brand idenity is first and foremost about being distinctive. But whilst you're trying to do this, you can also do a little bit to help establish or enhance your brand positioning.