The Power of Logos


I found myself buying a shirt with a logo on it the other day, and I realized I was paying more to have the little emblem on my chest when I wear the shirt. I actually pay more to show off this shirt company’s brand, and I’m happy to do it! That got me thinking: how do logos like this work in our brain? Why am I more comfortable with a product that has a logo, even to the point where I’d voluntarily show it off on my chest wherever I go? Experts, lay it on me: what’s the deal with logos?

Brands in general--and logos in particular--are powerful tools for companies. They’re also surprisingly useful from a consumer perspective, though they can be used for both good and ill. The idea, of course, is that logos make a company’s brand familiar and allow customers an easy way to identify companies they trust and love. But when we take a closer look at the psychology and science of logos, even the most jaded among us might be surprised by just how deeply they can affect us.

Science has a lot to say about the ways in which we process logos. We start, of course, by recognizing the colors, patterns, and shapes that make up any logo. But our brain does something special with familiar logos: it immediately conjures up associations. Those associations can be good or bad, of course, and companies strive to make sure that they’re good. But one thing is for sure: the associations can vary wildly, to the point where we can actually see that different logos activate different parts of our brain! We’re not just thinking “that’s a logo”--we’re thinking “luxury” or “fun” or “savings” or “sexy,” and those diverse associations will light up different spots in our brain. It all depends on what the logo means to us.

“Association begins with the logo itself, the branding will come from how your customers experience your company.” says Evan Fraser, Director of Marketing at GraphicSprings, a logo maker and graphic design company. The psychology of colors, the associations we have with fonts, and the work done by shapes--both familiar and abstract--can create an immediate impression. From there, of course, a company can make a name for itself and associate its own reputation with its logo--a convenient shorthand for branding and advertising.

It’s hard to understand how ubiquitous brands and logos are in our society. Studies show that preschoolers can recognize brand names, proving that we’re internalizing these things from a very young age. We make choices based on brands both consciously and unconsciously. And, yes, we wear our favorite brands on our sleeves (literally), an act of brand loyalty in fashion that helps us associate ourselves with vibes given off by a given logo or brand name.

Ultimately, logos are neither good things nor bad. Yes, you give your clothing company of choice some free advertising whenever you wear your new shirt, but it’s also true that you’re getting something out of the equation. The logo made it easy for you to identify the company that made the shirt, and as they earned your trust--perhaps because the shirt fit well, or was comfortable, or looked good--that logo made it easier for you to shop. And the logo also affects how others may view your shirt, making you look wealthier or more stylish or more discerning in your tastes than you might look in a logo-less shirt; you, too, are participating in the act of branding! It’s a complex situation, and a fascinating one, too.

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” -- Walter Landor

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