While our Who Needs a Logo article featured spoke more in general terms, what about your particular case. Do YOU need a logo? Maybe. Maybe not. While this may seem somewhat odd, especially from someone who supposedly makes his living at selling graphic & logo design services, this is perhaps the most critical step. How can you tell if you need a logo? Well, ask yourself a few questions starting with these;
2) Are you going to be competing for the attention of prospective clients and customers in a crowded marketplace?
3) Will you be entering an already thriving industry and – let’s not be coy – fighting to ‘steal’ business away from other, more established companies?
4) Do you need to get people’s attention – the “here I am, and here’s what I do” kind of attention?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you’ll probably need a logo design and all that entails. Conversely, if you’re working for ‘the man’ during the day, and moonlighting to a few friends at night – say, accounting services come tax time – then you don’t one – simple as that. Word of mouth, and casual referrals are likely to keep you more than busy enough.
Sure, you may want something ‘nifty’ to doll up your invoices, but you can probably manage that on your own – using standard business software and the supplied logo templates. You may even be able to crank out your own rudimentary letterhead and business cards (Avery and other paper suppliers offer pre-cut material that can be printed on your personal printer). As much as our design company (and any other graphic design professional) would love to work with you on your new identity, it’s probably more ‘bang’ than what you need for the expectations you have, and the goals you have set. If, on the other hand, your business aspirations are to develop your business further, more investigation is probably in order.
I’d say one of the litmus tests we can employ at this juncture would be this – if you’re planning to develop some brochures, maybe even an advertisement in the local paper – you might need a logo. You’ll notice that’s still a ‘might’. Bulletin boards at the local supermarket are full of hand-posted ‘flyers’ – you recognize them by the multitude of tiny ‘pull off strips with hand-written phone numbers, and while these advertisements might be more noticeable with a decent brand (sorry, couldn’t help myself), they probably perform to the level that can be expected – a trickle of inquires and one or two solid leads. If that’s all that you’re after, then a full-blown logo design process is still more than what you need. However, if you’re planning to drop a few hundred on an ad that is to be featured on a newspaper page with a load of other ads, then yours better stand out (for the most part, classified ads still enjoy the ‘no logo needed’ status). Yes, your deals are better. Yes, your service is faster. Hell, you’re even a nice person. But if people don’t notice your ad, who really cares? A version of the ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ and ‘the sound of one hand clapping’ arguments. Same goes for your website.
Think of this – you’ve been looking for a product or service on the Internet. You’ve run into sites that sell what you’re looking for, but for one reason or another, you’ve chose to look elsewhere. Oh sure, it may have been price. But haven’t there been times when you’ve backed out of a web site because the website wasn’t ‘right’? It didn’t ‘look’ as professional as the site that finally earned your business. Perhaps it ‘felt’ a little shady. Bad graphics. Spelling mistakes. And yes, it probably featured a bad logo, maybe even a hideous one. Pretty nebulous stuff. You probably couldn’t put your finger on it at the time. Trouble is, if your fledgling company or service is poorly presented, neither will your potential clients. They’ll just ‘feel’ that something’s not quite right about your business. And you’ll lose the sale.
And once again, if you’re simply filing tax returns on behalf of friends and family for a few bucks on the side, none of this is an issue. Simply naming your company should be enough. If, however, you’re trying to sell you services to strangers – and have but a few seconds to convince them that you are exactly what they’re looking for, you need to think about branding your company. Because that’s what a great logo (and related branding) is all about. Convincing strangers that you are the best (or at least very good) at what you do.
Strangers you ask? Sure – let’s take another example. Let’s say your homemade chili was such a hit at family picnics you decided to sell it at the local farmer’s market for a few bucks a jar. You could probably still get by without a logo on the jar and your booth. Captive audience, word of mouth, returning customers and a limited production capacity (how big is that crock-pot really?) combine to render a logo less than critical. If I wanted to be a stickler here, I could also argue that if the chili is good, a good branding workup will help move it through attention grabbing branding. I could also point out that if your chili is, in reality, simply mediocre – family members can be very forgiving – a good identity is practically a prerequisite. You’ll have few return clients and you’ll always be looking for new customers. It might also behoove you to have a flyer through which your word-of-mouth referrals can find you. I am, however, trying to avoid nuance here, so I’ll stick to my original black and white point.
So, while it’s true that not every company or business needs a logo, it can similarly be argued that in some instances a decent corporate identity is absolutely critical to the longevity and growth of others. And only by taking a long, hard look at what you want to accomplish with your entrepreneurial aspirations, can you decide which applies to you.