Brand First, Logo Second
Several years ago I wrote an article for FORUM about designing a brand identity—not just a logo (October 2011). That article came to mind today when I read that Microsoft Bing has new logo. The new version is green (or perhaps teal). It also uses an upper case “B.” The new color is intended to be easier to read than the previous yellow and display better across Microsoft products and services. Perhaps the timing also relates to Bing, the search engine that powers Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, becoming profitable.
But Bing still significantly trails Google. In my original article, I quoted Douglas Edwards, Google’s first brand manager. In I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59,” he tells the story of setting up a meeting to discuss his marketing plan. He argued that in a world in which search engines might become equal, Google would need to rely on “branding” to differentiate itself. As Edwards tells the story, the room grew quiet until cofounder Larry Page spoke up: “If we can’t win on quality, we shouldn’t win at all.” The core business strategy articulated by Page was to deliver superior quality.
A second story I included in that article was from Dan Pallotta (Harvard Business Review Blog, June 2011). He wrote: “Back in 1969 NASA didn’t have the best logo. But man did it have a brand. It has a nicer logo now — but the brand no longer stands for anything. If you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there, that’s your brand, no matter what fancy new name you come up with.”
So, as I think about Bing’s new logo the question is whether a better user experience is behind that redesigned logo. If I click on the logo or use it as my default search, will I have a better experience? What is the brand promise? How will my expectations be met and exceeded?
Ultimately it is the organization’s brand promise that leads to the creation of products and services adding customer value. The organization comes to be defined not by a visual identity but by the users’ experiences—all the touch points that can create an emotional connection between the user and the brand.
The lesson is clear. The organizational logo may be the symbol of your brand. But your success or failure will be based on your understanding of your customers and your ability to organize strategies, processes and resources (including people and technology) to deliver value.
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