Building a Successful Brand

July 16, 2008 Updated: October 16, 2008

I’m not sure I should say this, since I’m a partner at a logo design company, but your logo just doesn’t matter that much, and neither does your company name.  

So, for all you small business owners who are spending hours every day pondering over your company name, wondering if you should call it “Smith Jewelers” or “Jewelry World”, or calling Uncle Ned to see if he likes your logo in dark blue or light blue, I have terrible news for you: it doesn’t really matter.

How can this be, you say? Well, let’s take a couple real life examples and see how important their company name and logos were to their success.

Ford, Dell, Hewlett-Packard—boy, they thought hard about those companies didn’t they? Hmm, what’s my last name? Great! McDonald’s (another winner of a name) has a big “M” for a logo. Nike has a swoosh, Microsoft has nothing, just its name in a lame italic font. ExxonMobil didn’t even take the time to put their logo in italics.

Somehow, I don’t think these company logos had any effect whatsoever on their billions in revenues last year.

Now before you name your company “Slobby’s Suit Makers,” it’s important to be aware of what is important when developing your brand, and where you should spend your time and money.  

When it comes to a company name, there are some excellent rules to abide by when you are in the “naming” process. First, keep it short and easy to pronounce. But if your last name is “Stratklowvitz,” you should probably come up with another concept.

Second, try to be descriptive with a subtle name that can let people know what you do (I know, Logo Design Guru is not subtle—it’s a long story). And finally, pick a name that’s easy to spell, and one that someone can understand over the phone. Nothing is worse than having to repeat your company name three times until someone understands you.

Once you’ve decided on your business name, obtain a professionally designed logo.  Find a reputable online company (make sure they have a U.S.-based office), or a local designer, but please don’t jump on Microsoft Word and try to create your own logo. As a new business, you are building credibility, and your customers will know.

Here are some rules to consider when you are giving your designer some input:

1.    Keep it simple. Big, crazy, illustrative logos are hard to print and produce on marketing material. If your logo wouldn’t look good on a golf ball, it may be too complex.
2.    Minimize your colors. Unless you own “Rainbow Dry Cleaners,” keep your logo to two colors. Ideally, your logo should look good in grayscale as well.
3.    Make it memorable. A slick, original logo is optimal. However, keep rule No. 1 in mind.
4.    Balanced. If you use an icon, it is typically centered above the text, or to the left of the text. However, it’s ok to break the rules, if done with caution.
5.    Don’t pay too much. A close friend of mine developes software for $60,000. He was quoted by a local marketing company to build his brand for $75,000. These companies are self-righteous and may squander your earnings. This is outrageous.

Your brand is something that you will develop and build upon, and, if you grow large enough, may even change. However, keep in mind that people won’t buy because your logo is red or blue, they’ll buy from you because you have a desirable product or service at a reasonable price.

Joe Witte is a partner at Logo Design Guru < >, and has successfully started three small businesses including CentricSource and Travel Ad Network.