The Case of the Disappearing Logo

We don’t talk much about logos these days. Oftentimes the subject arises only in regards to a logo’s size within a certain context. “Make the logo bigger” is such a common request, entire songs have been written about it. But is making your logo bigger a good idea for brands? At least one study from the Harvard Business Review answers emphatically: “No.”

By combining eye-tracking, heat-mapping and facial-expression technologies, the HBR study discovered: “Prominent branding puts off viewers. The more prominent or intrusive the logo, the more likely viewers are to stop watching — even if they know or like the brand.” This seems counterintuitive. Wouldn’t cult fans rejoice in seeing Apple’s iconic logo writ large on the screen? Again, the answer is, “Negative.”

According to the Atlantic Monthly, today’s consumers are jaded about advertising in a way they weren’t just a few decades ago. As a result, forward-thinking marketers are transitioning to a subtler branding approach: dropping words (or names) from their logos. Think Target and Starbucks, MasterCard, NBC, Apple, Pepsi, Domino’s, Audi, McDonald’s and just about every app on your mobile phone. The reason? Visual imagery challenges the user to interpret messaging in a more active fashion, which creates a higher-quality mental image and strengthens relevant associations.

Our brains evolved to interpret symbols long before written words. Homo sapiens have been talking to each other for about 500,000 years. We’ve been using symbols to communicate for about 30,000 years. And we’ve been using an alphabet for about 5,000 years. So, working backward, will we ever see the day when brands drop the symbol too?

Yes. In fact, it’s already happening. Here’s one example. We’re guessing you’ll still be able to identify this brand. Without any name mention. And without any logo. Enjoy!