Can a logo be the making of an organisation, or the breaking?
For our major brands, the mere mention of their name is reflected by an instantaneous mental image of their logo. Think Apple, Coke, McDonalds, Ford, Adidas and many other international technology, food, clothing and motoring conglomerates. In fact, every category of business will have highly identifiable brand names and associated logos.
Is it the logo that matters more than the meaning of the logo? Are we locked in to the visual impact and its memorability rather than what the image may actually mean? Can a well intentioned meaning evolve over time to be a negative or even offensive image, or does the familiarity of that image supersede the meaning?
In the world of technology, the IBM logo was the most recognised for decades, where as Apple now occupies that position, and is in the top 3 best known of all logos.
There are many different versions of the original meaning of the Apple logo ranging from an association with the computer term “byte” through to paying respect to the death of a designer from ingesting a bite from a poisoned Apple. Does it matter what the meaning is?
In motoring circles, a common belief is the BMW logo is an interpretation of a spinning aircraft propeller with the blue depicting the sky. If this is true, does it matter that the company was a war time manufacturer during the second war? However, the reality is more likely to be the colours on the logo were chosen to reflect those of their original home in Bavaria.
I ask again, does the actual meaning behind the imagery of a logo matter?
Let’s consider the logo of a highly successful international business.
Its logo depicts an image of mythical figure widely considered in academic circles to be representative of deception, darkness, or even evil.
This is a business with over 26000 outlets across 75 countries selling more than 8 million of its core product per day.
The business successfully presents as a safe family location with a positive persona and a daily "must go to" venue for millions of people.
The business originated in a sea side area and the logo design was reportedly selected because it depicts a connection between land and sea.
The picture on the Logo is that of “Melusine” a medieval character, half female and half twin tailed sea serpent. Having twin tails separates this character from that of a mermaid who has a single tail. The legend is quite fascinating reading.
It could be said the historically held view of the logo imagery is not one of wholesome, happy goodness.
This does suggest the widely accepted meaning of a logo has zero impact on the success of a business and it is more important what the intent of such a logo is. In this case, its seaside heritage.
More important is what was on offer. As appealing and memorable as a logo may be, first came an innovative product, delivered in a way the market desired that meets a need and is replicable across highly diversified markets of varying cultures.
Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when the new VP of Marketing or new Brand Director wants to tinker with the logo. Get the product and service right first.
And the name of this highly successful, growing international business is – Starbucks.