While most businesses understand the value of their logo, many fall short of realising that a simple logo refresh is not the same as changing the brand and its offering. These businesses erroneously believe that changing the logo will automatically help them compete more effectively when, in fact, the logo itself isn’t as important as the overarching brand architecture and the ability of the company to deliver on its brand promises.

A company’s logo is a visual representation of a brand. The brand, however, is a perception held in people’s minds. That perception is formed and, potentially, altered based on people’s experience with the brand. Once these perceptions are in place, the logo becomes the physical embodiment of how the audience feels about that brand and what they believe the brand delivers.

When companies change the logo without changing anything else about the brand, it can damage the company’s reputation. People develop a relationship with a brand over time. The more the brand delivers on expectations, the more entrenched those expectations become. A new logo leads to new expectations. When the brand fails to deliver on the new expectations, customers can lose faith.

For a logo change to be successful, it must be part of a broader effort to reposition the brand. We live in a rapidly-changing digital world. Customer loyalty is harder to earn and people’s expectations of what a brand should offer changes constantly. Companies may choose a brand refresh to keep up with those evolving expectations but their efforts need to reflect those changes and can’t be limited to a simple logo change.

In fact, a logo change is merely one small tactic among many that can help reposition a brand. A company’s brand identity is much more than just visual elements. It includes messaging and tone of voice. It needs to reflect a company’s personality and align with its services or product offering.

A new logo will tell the world the brand has changed but it’s up to the brand to back this up with actions.

It’s therefore essential for brands to understand exactly how to communicate that they’ve changed. They should start with real change. This could be in response to a new business acquisition, changing capabilities, new competitors, or disruption. Whatever the impetus for the change, it must be real and tangible. Then, the new or refreshed logo can be designed to reflect that authentic difference.

When designing the new logo, it’s imperative to understand exactly what the change is and what it means for the brand’s customers. This involves closing the perception gap, which is the difference between how customers perceive the brand right now versus how the business wants them to perceive the brand. So the business must start by understanding those perceptions and how to influence them. If it can do this successfully, then customers will understand and embrace the new logo.

In fact, it’s essential to understand how customers actually perceive the brand, rather than how the company thinks they perceive the brand. Starting from a place of truth is essential and may require some preliminary benchmarking so that the strategy can be validated.

Customers are an important factor in the change journey. Businesses must take customers with them, ensuring they understand what the change is, why it happened, what it means for them, and what to do now. Then customers can buy into the new brand identity and remain loyal. They won’t do this if the change happens prematurely, before the business can back up its new identity with actions. The visual identity isn’t the first step, it’s the final piece of the puzzle.

Most companies can’t view their own brand objectively. That makes it crucial for organisations to partner with the right people to take a strategy-led, honest, authentic approach to rebranding. To do otherwise is to invite failure, which can result in irreparable brand damage. Getting it right, however, can cement existing loyalties, attract new customers, reinvigorate employees, and position the business for exponential growth.