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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Logo Design Can Have Unwanted Impact on Customers

The IBM logo is one many recognize, but its artistic style isn’t necessarily the best approach for all businesses, a new study suggests.

Efforts to artistically manipulate the typeface of a corporate logo by leaving some parts to the customer’s imagination — such as the horizontal baby blue stripes that form the letters IBM — can send mixed signals to consumers about a business, according to research from Boston College's Carroll School of Management.

While the intent is to generate brand interest, Henrik Hagtvedt, a marketing professor at Boston College who conducted the study on “incomplete” logos, found that these stylized emblems can prove a double-edged sword when it comes to consumer perceptions .

“It sparks an interest, but they view the firm also as being less trustworthy,” Hagtvedt told BusinessNewsDaily.

Incomplete typeface logos, Hagtvedt added, also have an unfavorable influence on consumers’ attitudes toward the business when the buyer is focused on preventing bad outcomes, rather than achieving good ones.

While incomplete logos might produce positive outcomes for some businesses, like entertainment companies, that are focused on being perceived as innovative, Hagtvedt said other more straightforward businesses, like insurance companies, might be better off not using one.

“For your firm, it is more important that you are viewed as trustworthy ,” he said.

Knowing that logos can send such strong messages shows Hagtvedt that businesses need to put thought and research into the one that they choose.

“You are stuck with this logo for decades,” Hagtvedt said. “Businesses need to look at their overall branding message to see where this fits in.”

Hagtvedt surveyed nearly 500 consumers who viewed a series of logos with parts of the company name intentionally missing or blanked out. The study’s full results will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Marketing.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.