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Of the 15 marks in my “1996” article, nine are essentially “wordmarks,” while six feature graphic symbols (Lucent, NCR, Imation, Pharmacia & Upjohn, McGraw-Hill, and LG; I count Nortel as a wordmark, but its “O” can also function as a freestanding symbol).
Which logo strategy is best? When should a CEO choose a wordmark, when a symbol? In general, consider a symbol only when:
Your name is too generic, too long, doesn’t translate well globally, or is hopelessly deficient in personality.
You need an emblem on the product, as on a car hood-or a sneaker.
You need to link subsidiaries to the parent and can’t easily use the name. (The Bell symbol served this function for the old AT&T and its operating companies.)
You have (or can afford) ample media, to teach us what the symbol means.
Choose a wordmark when:
Your name is reasonably distinctive but not (yet) a household word.
You want to associate products or subsidiaries with the parent more clearly and directly than a symbol permits.
Communication funds are limited and should be focused on name recognition.
A case in point: In 1995, Novell wanted to be a more powerful umbrella brand over its various software names. Consultants Frankfurt Balkind designed a striking new N symbol, appropriately expressive of a focal “enterprise networking” concept, accompanied by an elegant low-key wordmark.
In 1996, the “dots” were banished from marketing communications, to better focus on the branding essential-the Novell name. Rationale: “We don’t have time for trinkets that serve no functional need.”
Bottom line: Wordmark or symbol, make sure your identity consultant provides a strategic application-based rationale-not just a pretty face.
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