Virgin America poked fun at the branding world for April Fool’s Day this year by announcing their “new” logo, complete with promotional videos documenting their design journey. While this was clearly a prank with Virgin enjoying the opportunity for a little fun on April 1st, what if it wasn’t?
Virgin explains the logic behind the “human-centric design,” which some commenters note sounds like the words of an actual branding agency. And they’re right – a good logo should reflect the brand and communicate something about its purpose to the consumer, and many designs start with this in mind. But logo design is also an iterative process, and over time sketches can evolve. Those who are intimately familiar with the intent of the project may not see the same things in a logo as those further removed from the creative brief.
While you might assume that Virgin’s spoof would never occur in the real world, history throws up some cautionary tales. Perhaps one of the most infamous is Britain’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) new identity, which caused no end of embarrassment (although OGC quickly “re-launched its logo,” the damage had already been done). We would all like to think that something like this would never happen to us, but the reality is that it sometimes can.
So how can we be sure that a logo – or other expressions of a brand – conveys what we intend, and doesn’t become a Rorschach test of sorts? In a word – research! By conducting research, we can quickly check reactions to a logo with our key audiences – consumers and associates. The prevalence of online research methodologies allow us to quickly and efficiently gather feedback. Research also allows us to accomplish a few specific objectives.
First, as with the examples above, logo research allows us to do a quick disaster check before we go to market. Is the logo well-received by consumers? Does it have any negative connotations? Does it resemble something that already exists? Unaided feedback and likeability ratings will quickly flesh out any red flags – like the “human” shape of the Virgin logo.
Second, research can be a great tool to aid in decision-making. During the design process, multiple options may be presented, and it can sometimes be a challenge to pick a winner. Testing the top candidates can help us better understand how well each logo communicates brand and personality attributes, as well as determine the overall fit with the brand. The result can be used to make a data-driven decision of what’s best for your brand, and make the selection less personal or political.
Finally, once you’ve confirmed that you selected a logo that is a good fit and represents your brand in a positive, meaningful way, it’s time to socialize the logo within your organization. Since the consumer isn’t the only stakeholder impacted by the launch of a new logo, don’t file away that research just yet! You can use that data during the socialization process to support the case for change and help explain why the new logo will be a positive step forward for your brand.
While OGC presents a clear picture of what not to do, let’s look at how research helped inform the selection of a fresh new logo for the rebrand of Northwell Health. Brand New provided a review from a design perspective, but what did consumers have to say?
Our quantitative and qualitative research tested multiple logo options, and the logo ultimately selected was found to reflect an “innovative, forward-thinking organization that offers a breadth of services.” The research data mirrored back the creative territory that informed the logo design, and it proved the right fit for the new Northwell identity.
Ramon Soto, Northwell Health’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer sums it all up. “We chose a logo that brings together our 21 hospitals and our team of over 60,000 doctors, nurses, medical professionals, scientists, innovators, thinkers and trailblazers, working collaboratively toward the common goal of superior healthcare for everyone. Our size and connectivity gives us strength. We have a powerful story to tell and our new logo captures this spirit.”
A win for Northwell, and an example of how logo research can help us avoid making a boob out of our brand (no pun intended).