For some reason, they’re still outputting SXSW podcasts. This morning, I listened to one that was released four days ago, entitled “Logos: Why They’re Irrelevant and Can Actually Hurt Your Business”. I thought it was an odd and wacky title for a panel discussion, so I decided to check it out. I also wanted to see if what they had to say had any relevance to my personal involvement with logos, or the lack thereof.
Here’s the direct link to the mp3 of the discussion.
I thought the presenters made valid points, especially when it comes to startups and not already-established companies. If nobody knows you, your company or what you or your company does, there’s no need to spend a lot of time on a logo. What does your logo symbolize? Nothing. Because you don’t have any ‘cred’ yet. Let’s say you’re selling soap. You have no track record, so nobody’s going to be looking for your logo as a symbol of excellence. You can put your box on the shelf next to already-established brands as well as generic store soap, and your logo won’t help you sell your soap AT.ALL. Once you get down the line and you’ve established yourself, people might recognize your logo and pull your box off of the shelf as a preference over other brands.
Another problem occurs if your company changes focus AFTER creating a logo. If your logo is a boot and then your company becomes a human search engine firm, that boot’s no longer relevant and either needs to be phased out (costing you more time and money) or worked around.
A third issue isn’t with the logo itself, but in how people access your site to begin with. How much good is your logo doing you if people are only spending SECONDS on your site at a time? Where is your logo placed? What size is it? What does it tell people about your business within that couple of seconds? What do people really look at during that time? Graphics? Text of the information they were searching for?
There were more good points and the audience brought up counter-points, but again, the logos they referenced were of already-established companies, like Dell. Dell already has a track record, so seeing a symbol of theirs might prompt you to pull their item off of the shelf. If it had been a logo for the “Mr. Startup Computer”, it’s not going to mean anything without a track record.
After I listened to this hour-long discussion, I thought about my own experiences in “the space”.
When I started ReelSolid.TV on May 27th, 2006, it was after quite a few discussions with several people whose opinions I valued. I had hours of discussions about focus, the types of videos, transparency… everything that we could think of that it would have meant to take what I already do for broadcast and corporate clients and put it on the net.
I decided that I wanted to do a ‘station’ or a ‘channel’ instead of doing Bill Cammack Televison or the Bill Cammack Show, because I didn’t intend to stick with ReelSolid.TV exclusively, and it didn’t make sense to me to hand off a show with my name on it to other people to produce and edit. Once I had the name, though, I felt like I needed a logo. I had made something with a physical film reel, and we kicked around the idea of using a rock, as in “solid like a rock”. For some reason, as important as I felt a logo was at the time, I didn’t have time to wait to figure that out and started doing my videos without an actual logo, yet with a specific font I liked to use for my opens and closes.
I also had ReelSolid.TV burned into my videos. I figured out pretty early on, thanks to the videoblogging group that people like to rip RSS feeds and act like you uploaded your work to their site. So the way I see it is “Take it all you want. It still has my name on it. Thanks for the free publicity. :)”
So I put in work as “ReelSolid.TV” without a logo, figuring I’d get around to it at some point. On April 01, 2007, I met Cruxy.com‘s Nathan Freitas. We exchanged names, which neither of us recognized. I had never heard of Cruxy.com either. When I told Nate I did ReelSolid.TV, he was like “OH! I’ve seen your show…” and brought up a video that I had done in December 2006 about men’s suits @ Phil’s 1908 here in Manhattan:
I had remembered that someone had given me props for the video and I had thanked them for it on a forum. When I got home and checked… lo and behold, it had been Nate I had electronically communicated with ~4 months ago, but since it was text-based, with no images attached, I didn’t know WHO it was that I was interacting with.
More importantly… Immediately upon noticing Nate’s different reaction to my actual name and the brand I had been building for 10 months at that point, I realized that whenever I decided to step out from behind ReelSolid.TV, I was going to be anonymous and basically would have to mention ReelSolid anytime I wanted someone to understand “who I was” and what I’ve done in the space. From that moment on, I switched my “brand” from ReelSolid.TV to BilCammack.com and recently, to “Bill Cammack”.
What that has to do with logos is that if I had attached one to ReelSolid.TV like I intended to from the beginning, now, I would have been Bill Cammack with the logo of a rock. 😀 booooo hissssss. On top of that, Nate might not have recognized ReelSolid.TV as a brand if my logo had been, say, a rock with “R S” behind it. It would have been another level of abstraction that I would have had to climb out from under if I wanted my propers for my accomplishments.
Ultimately, what ended up working for me was leaving out logos altogether. I saw that people were already ‘confused’ as far as what a ReelSolid.TV production meant. In my particular case, it’s in my best interest for people to know the name of the person involved with the production. That way, they can google me and I maintain my position for “Bill” behind Gates & Clinton.
Having said that… I *did* end up using a logo of sorts. I use twitter by the website because I parse entries visually. I can tell by scrolling which icons represent entries I need to stop and read and which I don’t. I found myself getting thrown off when people changed their icons. 🙂 I would stop to read something, then realize it’s someone I’m not reading, memorize their icon and keep rolling. Also, on other social sites, I would realize that people were using different icons for themselves and, let’s call it “diluting their visual brand”. I decided that unless I had a strategic reason not to, I was going to use the same icon when I joined social sites.
So, similar to how my name became my brand name, my picture became my brand logo. This has had the interesting effect of people recognizing me the first time I meet them, but not being sure where they saw me before. It’s also had the effect of my friend Sean Bohan ‘complaining’ that every time he goes to some site, I have a presence there. 😀
As far as this website, most of the hits I get are from people searching for specific information. Just like the panel stated, people dip into my site and dip right back out. 🙂 There’s like a 20% chance that they’ll go to a second page and about a 0% chance that they’ll go to a third page. 😀 So a logo has nothing to do with my website. People either show up here and know whose site it is, or they don’t know and they don’t care. Mostly, it’s people that are searching for answers to their questions that they find on google and aren’t coming to personally socialize with the site owner, so I haven’t bothered to use my uniform icon/logo for this site.
So, did I agree with the panel? Yes. Other than “Target”, which is really simple, I can’t recall a logo for Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Ning… I know the icon for iTunes… Basically, I don’t pay attention to logos at all. I think that until your business is in the position of demonstrating value to your potential clients, a logo does nothing for you as it represents nothing at all. When you ARE generating added value, I think you STILL want to consider whether you want to dilute people’s understanding of who it is that’s really making things happen, especially if you’re doing everything yourself.
Like they said on the panel, time is money. Time wasted creating a meaningless (to consumers/clients) logo would be better spent on improving the technical aspects of your app/product/site or decreasing the amount of time before your launch. If you HAVE to have a logo, make something decent-looking and QUICK or pay a student a few dollars to spend THEIR time creating something for you. Most likely, potential clients will respond more favorably to a solid app without a fancy logo than they will to an app that looks nice, but has a spotty performance record due to misallocation of development time.