During a recent branding project, a client saw that their new logo had some similarities with that of another business in their industry which used a similar shape (albeit in a different format). The client wondered to what extent they should be concerned, and whether or not their logo should be changed.
Is this worth worrying about?
Visual similarities between logos can be a legitimate cause for concern.
Logos work by being distinctive – by consumers immediately recognising and connecting them to the brand owner’s name. Logos anchor a brand’s messaging so that consumers add every exposure they have with a brand to their accumulated memories of that brand. This makes the logo a brand’s most valuable visual asset.
Clearly, then, it would be counterproductive if a brand were to give it’s marketing efforts to a competitor because consumers accidentally attributed their messaging to a brand that looks similar.
Why do similarities occur?
Logo design is both an art and a science. It’s a balancing act between expressing all that is unique about a brand with what works visually. The finished product is often a heavily stylised and simplified way of expressing a company’s core promise and personality.
Because logos are usually economical in their visual presentation, design-wise, there are only so many possible variations. When you add to this the huge number of logos in existence, there are bound to be logos that, to a lesser or greater degree, look alike.
To demonstrate this, my client and I typed ‘blue’, ‘circle’ and ‘logo’ into Google, and found three well-known logos that had elements in common (blue, circle and two capital letters).
These logos can co-exist as they are all highly established and well-known. Consumers already understand what makes each of them unique, and are therefore unlikely to confuse one for another.
So this situation may well be tenable for three large multi-national businesses. But how and when should smaller businesses respond to the possibility of lookalikes?
There are a number of practices that will help ensure your logo is distinctive and lessen the chances you’ll be confused with another.
Best practices to follow:
Practices to avoid:
Deciding if two’s a crowd
No matter how well a new logo is designed, there may well be others that have something in common. The challenge is deciding if this will actually damage your brand’s performance.
Ultimately, your consumers are the judge and it’s their perceptions that matter. When confronted with a look-alike, there are some questions you can ask to gauge the extent of the challenge and assess a need for change: