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Why can a logo cost a $100 or even a $1 million?

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September 12, 2020

I visit a freelancing platform sometimes where some individual entrepreneurs or small businesses request for a logo for their brand and they give out a budget like $105. You might also have read about branding projects that have run into ten of millions of dollars. Here is a nice little article dedicated to the most expensive logos ever.

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So why the difference? What magic dust is poured into the logos that costs millions and what separates it from the logo that cost $105? They are all made with the same bits of shapes and colours and words thrown together after all.

To explain this I will take you through a journey to understand branding. This article is divided into two parts, in the first part I will explain the depths of a branding exercise and in the second part, I will explain the manner in which you execute each depth that can start giving you a clue about the costs associated with branding.

Depths of a branding exercise:

Brand Visual Identity Design: This is the most basic of all exercises you can do for your brand. This is a visual representation of your brand.. The logo is the center piece of your brand identity as it will be on your packaging, website, storefront or as a tattoo on the chest of your most passionate customer. The brand visual identity design creates a shape that will represent your company along with the shapes's colours, the typefont of the words written with the shape and any associated visual elements that come along.

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Your brand identity is supposed to evoke what your brand really represents. For example, if you are a handmade jewellery brand and your pieces are delicate and each of your piece commands the price of a yearly salary of a mid-level bank executive, it is highly unlikely that your logo will be like something on the right.

What you are really trying to achieve with your brand identity is to translate your product or service's core values into a shape, colour and font that really captures your brand. If you are at an early stage of your business journey, you really can create something simple that you like more than anyone else because the person who will see your logo more than anyone else during this phase is you yourself. Here is an article of how the first logos of famous companies looked like.

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We wanted the logo of our own studio to be a very simple. Hence we settled for a bespoke hand lettered logo to reflect what our brand name really stands for, i.e. Another Day Another Colour. We chose our brand name to evoke how we wanted to constantly evolve and never stagnate because that is how we saw life, constantly evolving and changing.

So to summarise, the brand visual identity exercise is about creating a visual representation of your brand and it will evoke what your company is really about through a logo, colour and font.

Brand Language Design: Also known as communication design, the brand language design is extending the tone of your visual identity to the way the brand communicates. This includes re-structuring the way all your communication especially outbound communication maintains the tone of your brand. Ideally, this should include the way you communicate internally too. Think advertising and you know what I mean by brand language design.

A basic brand language design is a copywriting exercise where the design team creates the copy for your website, brochure, emails and other official communication. The way you sign off on email can also be crafted. Ankita, my partner and wife, started signing off her emails with "love" instead of "best" to reflect how she wanted to communicate the ethos of our studio. She now signs her email as "keep creating" to reflect her current journey as a creativity coach along with being a partner at ADAC studio. We wanted to allow ourselves the freedom to express rather than following the norm.

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There are many famous examples of companies crafting their brand language across all their external communication that is consistent and speaks to their end users. Brand language design is instrumental behind many iconic brands like Apple and Ikea. In India my team and I love the old storytelling aspect of PaperBoat. The advertisements of Fevicol made everyone who watched it fall in love with it and made a simple glue one of the most recognized and used brands in India. This interview by Piyush Pandey who is behind those advertisements talk about how he connects with common people to craft beautiful advertisements.

Brand Culture Design: This is where good brands become insanely awesome brands. Brand culture design is about living and breathing the brand you have created in everything that you do as a company.

Brand culture design is where you train and orient every part of your company to express your brand values. Right from the way the founder conducts themselves in all areas of their life to the way the sales person interacts with the customer, brand culture design is about each member expressing themselves and coming across as the brand. Very very easy thing to say, very very difficult thing to do.

Think of brands that you absolutely love engaging with and buying from over and over again because they simply delight the hell out of you every single time or really gets your pain the one time they could not deliver. You will probably have at most, one example and for most of you, this is an utopian dream.

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However, there are companies who breathe their brand in everything they do. This is contentious territory but I personally LOVE the customer support at Airbnb. It simply is so much better than any other customer support I have ever interacted with. Not only that, their customer support is an extension of their brand. It is not an independently operating entity. The informal way they interact and go about their job while being extremely efficient is how Airbnb as a brand feels like. I simply can never stay at hotels, even the awesome ones because the personal touch of someone's home cannot be replicated. And what makes me a loyal customer of Airbnb is how the hosts and the customer support are. They are warm and friendly and there to serve without being submissive about it. They don't owe me anything but they love to be of service to me. That is what has me go back over and over again.

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Buffer is another brand that I simply love because of who they are as an insanely committed employee driven brand. They share their salaries with the whole world and are very good at what they do. Imagine being that transparent. They are not marketing their brand, they are living their brand. They are about creating a culture where everyone from the founder downwards want to work at and they are relentless in the pursuit of creating such a company. A company that works for each of the people who work for them. That is really being your brand.

At our studio, I am inspired by what Buffer represents. I am just starting off creating a studio where I will like to work myself. There is still such a long way to go. Can we really go the buffer route? Will that really work for us? I don't know but exploring to find out if we can take inspiration from Buffer to being a transparent brand.

As a design studio, we are inspired when we design to delight. When we exceed the expectations of our clients by such a margin that they are truly delighted and blown away by what we created. Do we always succeed at it? No. However, we are honest when we don't. And that is something which we value. We are still in the process of creating a brand that will inspire us and a brand where we will all like to work at and give everything for. We have started by questioning the kind of culture we want to create and being authentic about what doesn't work where we are now.

What is the kind of culture you are creating? Are you really living that culture?

Executing Each Depth:

Now that you have a fair idea of the levels of a branding exercise, here is why some branding exercises is for a $100 and some for a $1 million. The reason is effort and expertise.

A logo can be created from clip art or a logo template website. A logo can also be created with hours of detailed work going back and forth on the kind of colours, font, weights to be used. A logo can also be created after intense market research and understanding how a certain logo will resonate with all stakeholders of the organization. This is the effort part where the effort can wildly vary.

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The expertise part is more subjective and really depends on who is taking the effort. Top companies have fine tuned their brands over years of painstaking research by some of the best design minds of the world.

Based on the kind of company you are and the resources you have, you can take a call on what you are willing to spend to create your brand. Remember, the brand identity is just a very small part of your brand. It is how the brand is operating in all respects including the way you operate which will truly determine the brand of your company.

How much did you spend on creating your logo?

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