Countries, regions and cities can have their logo, but we can’t expect them to be the solution to a successful Place Brand strategy. We don’t have anything against logos, but logos have something against Place Branding and even more so, Nation Branding.
Taking a risk
Logos are important in Place Branding. So much so that you shouldn’t use them. To quote the 14 Steps to Nation Branding by Bloom Consulting, “[trust] us, this will save you a great deal of time, money and headaches.” By that we mean, don’t launch the brand and don’t create a logo.
In our experience, logos are the rotten cherry on top. They can become toxic and a liability in terms of taking away from the Place Brand strategy. Bloom Consulting has seen first-hand Place Brands that were compromised due to logo creation, why risk it? Trust in your brand to pull rather than push. In either case, logos are not going to build significant, if any, value for your Place Brand.
Logos will not make a brand, but they can break it.
Logos and their value
The short of it is that logos are a costly endeavour with high risk of failure. When we say failure, we’re talking about two possible outcomes:
First, logos are a definitive visual which are bound to not be liked or appreciated by everyone. In this case, logos would bring little to no value to the overall perception of the Nation or Place Brand. Nation and Place Brand Strategies are inherently complex and require deeper meaning than slapping a visual aid onto a website or building. Similarly, logos are often launched or revealed in a dramatic way, replacing some other visual aid which may or may not have been successful. This, again, opens any Place Brand project up to criticism on a large scale, overshadowing all other artful and tasteful work performed behind the curtain.
Second, lack of effectiveness. If we were to ask you what is the logo of Chile, Russia or Cincinnati what comes to mind? Without doing much research, if you didn’t come up with an automatic answer, this is the point we are trying to prove. Of course, when we think of Russia there are certain associations which are more popular amongst international audiences. Chile and Cincinnati on the other hand might produce entirely different results. This is the Nation or Place Brand at work. All in all, the “logo” doesn’t live rent free in our minds. For the most part, as emotional beings, we’re going to remember how a country and its stories make us feel. We’re not going to remember or even care about the expensive logo which bears little to no importance for brand audiences’ experience in correlation with a nation and its people.
The effects of familiarity
Depending on our level of familiarity with the country, we’ll have either a more colourful or vapid image of a nation and its people when asked to draw on our personal “experiences”. Familiarity plays a strong role in building perceptions. Logos, however, do little to affect either end of the spectrum. If you’re unfamiliar with a place and its purpose, policies and people, you’re more open to influence in terms of perception building. Give them something to remember. If someone’s first impression doesn’t conjure a strong emotion, there’s a low chance it will have much impact. Conversely, those who are strongly familiar with a place have no mind for a logo. These audience members have already made an emotional connection to that place, the image they have in their mind is more powerful than a symbolic representation.
How to be resourceful
Now that we’ve told you what can go wrong by investing in a logo, we’ll focus on what can go right by notinvesting in a logo. “Your Nation Brand should be treated as a vessel through which the country’s identity is carried out and globally distributed. Do away with misconceptions about your nation and its people.” – 14 Steps to Nation Branding: Step 6 (Define your Central Idea).
Here we reference the 14 Steps to Nation Branding to shed light on the importance and capability of a Nation Brand strategy. By defining one’s Central Idea, you have the capacity to work with purpose in activating meaningful place brand touchpoints. When someone is asked what they think of your country, what do you want to be known for? A logo? Or something that represents who you are and what you stand for. The Nation Branding process can be unpredictable. It’s not worth investing time and money into something with such little return and high risk of failure. Be resourceful and allocate funds elsewhere. Create a meaningful brand worthy of remembrance and capable of standing on its own without a logo.
Read more: 14 Steps to Nation Branding by Bloom Consulting