This post focuses on company logos, but is applicable to all a company’s graphics, particularly when your company has, or is considering, a branding bible, company style guide or detailed, elaborate Corporate Image Guidelines.

It’s been a long journey since the days I proudly referred to myself as the Logo Police. The hints of future rebellion were there, however: I loved seeing the perfect uniformity of a shiny new office building lose its relentless rhythm to varicolored lighting and all tastes of window shade. Humanness and personal meaning triumphed over unnatural perfection.

Of course, the desire to create a consistent business image is valid, and upholding it enhances business value. But loosen up, or you may find you’ve smothered your brand in your efforts to protect it.

Your Logo is Not Your Brand
You’re free!

And with the resources and energy you recoup from policing every detail of your corporate image, you can now:

  • Take your customer service to the next level
  • Improve the quality of your product or service
  • Get real about that Mission Statement thingy you wrote back in the day, and do more to make sure everyone on the team is behind it
  • Find out if your customers are using your products or applying your services in cool, unexpected ways

For more about real brand building, check out this great article by Scott Glatstein: 5 Steps to Brand Building – Touchpoints are Key to Building a Strong Brand.

Make Peace with Your Brand’s Evangelists
They are going to do it wrong. They’ll stretch and color your logo, combine it with weird graphics, and all in the name of love. Before you compose that friendly (or indimidating) note telling them how important it is for them to not mangle your corporate image, ask yourself:

Have you consciously identified their motivation? Beyond, “I know they’re doing this to be helpful, but…” there are reasons like, they identify with us, they believe in us, they feel like they’re on our team, etc. When a guess about their motivation feels close to the mark, you can start from there and begin a dialogue. You may even discover you can leave the horribly stretched logo alone. If not, the tone of your letter will certainly have shifted. Consider thanking them, and then providing a custom graphic, suited to their uses.

What if the motivation is more at, they’re hoping we’ll hire them them when they see how creative they are? Well, it would be nicer if they just straight-up asked, eh? In the meantime, you can still acknowledge their efforts by finding at least one positive thing you can honestly say (i.e. “We never considered using dark mauve, and it may just inspire a future campaign. We’ll definitely credit your input if we end up doing it!”)

Dig Beneath the Surface
There’s really only so much your logo will do for your business. Steve Zelle does a brilliant job of spelling this out in his post, The Value of a Logo, on the more than a logo blog.

This all points to a single underlying lesson: The clearer you are about who you are as a company, the freer you are to build a powerful brand. A powerful, vital brand can flex with changing times, can grow and evolve as your company does and can not only inspire trust, but sustain it.

Do yourself a huge favor, and head for the beach/woods/mountains/whatever-out-in-nature/ok-maybe-just-your-favorite-cafe and spend some time pondering the soul of your business. As you clarify that core of your company’s identity and purpose, a great deal of its outer surface—what people ultimately see—will take care of itself.

“Consistency” as a priority will give way to “More Vibrance, More Excitement”, and a healthy, growing brand.


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