Want to see marketing folks get excited? Put them around a table and let them try and come up with the perfect logo. Their passion for logos, fonts, and colour schemes is intense – and strangely contagious.
True story… I once attended a three hour meeting with stakeholders of a new national nonprofit. The entire one hundred and eighty minutes involved a heated debate about whether their new logo should be green or purple. FYI: After much hullabaloo they decided on green, I think. Or maybe purple.
Truthfully, I don’t remember, because the organization itself simply wasn’t memorable. They didn’t end up doing anything particularly spectacular. Within a few years, their funding dwindled and while they’re still around, they certainly aren’t a household name. And that green – or purple – logo couldn’t save them.
Logos, fonts, and colour schemes are cool but they’re not as important as those marketing folks would like you to believe. No one cares about your logo until they care about your organization.
But what about super famous logos?
There are corporate logos many of us covet on our consumer goods, like the Apple logo on a laptop that tells the world we can afford the best. And there are nonprofit logos we recognize right away, like the famous Red Cross logo:
But Apple didn’t succeed simply because they chose the right fruit and the Red Cross didn’t thrive purely on the glory of that plus-sign.
Ultimately, both corporate and nonprofit brands are judged by what they do, not by how snazzy their logos are.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of logos are not super famous. In fact, there are very few organizations people recognize just by looking at their logo.
I know this because one of the mindless games on my iPhone is called Logo Quiz. I was sure I would ace this game but I was wrong. In reality, I was shocked by how few logos I could readily connect with actual brands.
Your logo is just an image.
A distinctive logo may make you slightly more recognizable to the general public and that’s nice. But it cannot possibly encompass all of your ambitions and accomplishments, or the many ways you help people. It’s just an image.
Your logo only begins to have meaning after your organization begins to have meaning. Ultimately, people will associate that image with the feelings they have about your organization. It doesn’t work the other way around.
For example, your feelings about the Red Cross logo reflect your feelings about them as an organization. Love them or hate them, your opinions are based on their actions, not on that image. Their reputation doesn’t depend on logos, fonts, or colour schemes – and neither does yours.
So if no one cares about your logo, what DO they care about?
People care about what you do and how you do it. They care about the value of your products, programs, and services, and the ethical core of your organization. Brand images, like your logo, are cool and have value, but they’re not as important as those marketing folks want you to believe. They can’t build a positive reputation overnight. Nothing can.
Everything worthwhile takes time and effort. To grow and thrive, you need to focus your attention and energy on real people and their needs:
- Who are you trying to serve?
- What are their pain points? (What do they need?)
- How can you create and promote products, programs, and services that meet those needs?
You also need to keep your eyes on the basics, like developing a respectful, inclusive organizational culture, where your people take pride in their work and have a passion for what you’re trying to accomplish.
The more deeply you focus on people, the better. Because that’s the BIG secret to building an effective, mission-driven organization.
You can always tweak your logo.
Your logo isn’t a tattoo. If stakeholders wake up one day and hate the logo, it can be tweaked. In fact, if your organization is growing and you’re pushing forward, chances are that you will outgrow your initial branding materials. That’s a GOOD thing. It means you’re not stagnant!
Loads of very high-profile organizations have changed their logos more than once. For example, UNICEF has changed its logo several times. Their first logo depicted a child drinking milk. Now, they focus on a parent lifting up a child. As the organization grew and evolved, so did their logo.
That said, the future of UNICEF doesn’t rest on the creativity of their logo design team. At the end of the day, their logo is a reflection of what they stand for, not a driving force of change.
Your logo is part of your organization’s public image, and as such it is worthy of a degree of attention. But it’s important to recognize that logos, fonts, and colour schemes are just bells and whistles.
A fancy new logo isn’t going to put you on the fast track to greater recognition or authority. If you want to be known for your greatness, you need to BE GREAT. Just looking great won’t do it.
So focus on the truly important stuff – people. Try to settle on a decent logo, because logos are cool. But don’t lose sleep over it.