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How to say no to logos

How many conversations do you have about logos? I regularly spot cases of logoitis in organisations.

If you are working in-house, I’m certain these sound familiar to you…

A sense of urgency, typically displayed via the phrase: “This project needs a logo.”

“Well X department had a logo for their initiative, so we want one too.”

Or my personal favourite… “Hi Comms team, I’ve done you a favour, my brother/friend/partner is a graphic designer and has created a logo for our project to save you doing it.”

Sigh.

So why is this an issue?

In my mind you have one brand identity and hopefully just one logo.

(Caveat – I’m aware you may have multiple product brands under one umbrella, each with their own branding, I’m talking about the ad-hoc logos that pop up).

In my experience, when everything has a logo inside your organisation, it weakens your overarching one.

Everything that is being proposed internally, be it a product launch, campaign or a team’s work should and could align with your company purpose. Whatever it is they are working on should be part of your strategic priorities as an organisation. You should be able to see a direct correlation between their work stream and the reason your company exists.

Whether you’re curing patients, transporting people or selling widgets, their particular piece of work should align with it.

Therefore, they don’t need a logo.

If everything they are doing is truly helping you achieve your company purpose, it’s right and proper when you communicate about it internally, to use your main logo.

Because here’s the truth. A shoddy logo does not turn a campaign into a success.

Even if it’s been beautifully designed (by committee or a well-meaning nephew), it is unnecessary, adds to the noise in the organisation and can distract from what they’re actually trying to do.

When I was working in-house I did a logo amnesty. I joined an organisation and kept seeing logos everywhere. Not just our company one, but every team, project and initiative had a logo.

Did it help them all stand out? No. Did it irritate me? Yes.

Why? Because what was missing in most of the work that was being done was a focus on how that particular piece of work was helping the company achieve its aims. So much time had been spent crafting and drafting logos they’d lost sight of why they were doing the work in the first place.

I collated them and it was a mess. A big confusing mess of visual identities, with more colours, variety and fonts than I could shake a stick at. “But we think it looks better to add some wording underneath the company logo using this colour” or “We want it to stand out” they protested.

I hear you, but I disagree.

I spent time explaining to my stakeholders and our people why I said no, why I would call them out if I spotted logos and why they needed to articulate their work in a different way, to draw clear correlations between what they were doing and why our company existed. It took time, I was unpopular, but I stuck to my guns as it was important.

If you don’t appreciate the equity of your brand internally, you’ve no hope of it being appreciated externally.

Visual identities

One area I do concede on is visual identities that are linked with your business priorities and applicable for all or most of your employees.

I know to make a campaign stand out, it often makes sense to have a visual identity created internally. An example of this could be your employee survey. This is something where you need to capture the attention of all your people and it should include the call to action to complete the survey. Or perhaps the launch of your values, e.g. where you create visual icons and use them every time you talk about them.

But be scarce with this. Do you have a criteria you use internally? When do you encourage or allow teams to invest in a visual identity (look and feel)?

If you’re stuck on this topic, do try the technique I use to help me make decisions. It features in my Masterclass workbooks and I’ve used it for years. Instead of mapping out pros and cons, I use what do we gain and what do we lose.

So if a stakeholder is asking you for a logo for something they’re working on, write out what would you gain as an organisation if it went ahead, and what would you lose. If the lose column outweighs the gain, there’s your answer.

As ever, I’d love to know what you think. Does your company suffer with logoitis? What remedies have you tried? Has something in this blog post helped you?

Further reading about branding on the All Things IC blog

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Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 26 February 2020.

 

Comments

  1. Alex Whittingham says:

    A simple but completely accurate blog post. I would be astounded (yes, I went there) if any other in-house IC pro hadn’t annoyed a member of the business by denying them a logo. I recently had a situation where after explaining the importance of aligning with the corporate brand and strategy and not losing focus of why they were communicating what they needed, they went ahead and published newsletters with the logo on. Even though they agreed not to use it!

  2. Hi Alex, thank you for your comment. I think that’s true, astounded is apt in that context!

  3. Shel Holtz says:

    There arenrimes a logo makes sense, though your premise is spot on. One case I just encountered: a joint venture on a project that will last 8-10 years. Each situation should be evaluated based on its unique characteristics and needs.

  4. Hi Shel, thanks for your comment. I agree, if it’s something longer term like the situation you’ve described, there could be merit in that scenario, Rachel.

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