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What is the best way to explain to a client that their logo is incredibly poor and amateurish when they seem to like it?

They want to spend a fair bit of time and money developing new products,designs and marketing but their current logo is a real obstacle in making them look professional.

I have tried substituting the logo with a reworked version during demos of new products and explained it as "giving them a new option". They simply preferred the version using their original logo.

I have also been much more blunt. Stating that their logo is looking dated and doesn't reflect their business.

The current logo style has no special relevance to the industry that they are involved in. They are not a major brand where it would cost many thousands to change their branding and merchandise so cost is not a realistic barrier.

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You not finding it professional doesn't translate to dollars and cents for them, especially if they like it. That said these two discussions may prove useful to you: Why do some logos look.. old? How does design age? and How to explain the reasoning for and against a font choice? –  Ryan Feb 17 at 12:22
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You are correct in that they don't see a financial reason for changing it since they are happy (and who doesn't love a happy client). However, their new marketing and products would have a more positive impact and therefore would create higher profit if it was updated. Therefore it is in the interest of the client to change the design rather than to simply satisfy my personal preference. –  slaterio Feb 17 at 12:42
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If you have market research to support your claim that a new logo would create higher profits if updated then thats what you approach them with and its an easy decision. –  Ryan Feb 17 at 12:51
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Yes I see, so examples of companies doing a similar branding update alongside published sales figures could be of use. –  slaterio Feb 17 at 12:58
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Be aware, many horrible logos were created by company owners or friends or family -- it's a mine field trying not to offend due to this. –  Scott Feb 17 at 20:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

To give some sort of an answer for you:

  1. Sales figures on similar branding update data would be one very good approach. Just make sure it relates and had a similar reason. A racist logo from the 1920s updating to not be racist is different then not liking the color choice or something. Data from one would have very little meaning on the other.

  2. If the new marketing you're going to be creating includes physical objects such as shirts or hats that might be expensive with the current number of colors and details that a proposed logo update would solve.

  3. Performing an A/B study showing that a proposed alternative is more memorable to the intended purchaser.

  4. If there was a merger, fundamental shift in corporate philosophy or products, or other big change. One that comes to my mind is Nintendo changed its logo in the 1980s when it switched from trading cards to video game systems.

Here is an article on Forbes about when to change logo:

How Do You Know When it's Time to Change Your Company's Logo?

The last sentence is

Which brings us to the most important point of all: when your logo is not just identified but liked err on the side of leaving it be.

The owners don't appear to have asked you to change the logo and they like it. Unless you can come up with a very valid reason, err on the side of leaving it be.

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Find the logos of the bigger, better, grander competitors of theirs.

All of them. Put them into a beautiful PDF that goes through each and every one, and then shows them all laid out together.

Then ask them which one doesn't belong.

If they point to theirs... you're in business.

EDIT: ADDITION: Partially in response to the question posed below in the comment about whether or not this actually works, and partially because this is an absolutely essential part of doing any image/identity creativity on behalf of anyone, ever:.

Not only does this approach work, it's fundamentally important to the process of (re)designing a logo for any brand. In the research stage you must analyse all those companies, brands and products in the same space, above and below, for their imagery, iconography, colouring, themes and attitudes as presented via their imagery, identity, advertising and marketing.

Just by virtue of being a designer you should be keeping up to date on the world's design, in general and specific to your field of interest and endeavour and always be the best conversationalist on the zeitgeists within it.

Like it or not every brand/product/company/service exists in a space within which you're designing a component of their armoury to duke it out for revenue, reputation and reverence.

// You should deliberately position a company within that space by designing with full understanding of the constructs within which the brand will be seen and perceived.

If a company doesn't understand its identity, and you think you do, the fastest path to demonstrating the position of their brand's image/identity is by contrast within their market. Even if they can't see their own flaws they'll recognise the strengths in others.

If you're right, and they're sentient and self aware, they will both recognise their competitors qualities and their own perceptions of them, whilst concurrently realising you (as a designer) are actively assisting with their market positioning via their image and identity. That you GET where they're situated and what they're up against from an image and identity perspective. You just became an ally.

In this way this exercise builds trust AND understanding.

There is an IF to the sentence above... if they don't recognise their own logo as not belonging you're either misguided in your efforts or they're too blind to see/recognise any of their own deficiencies. You can't help people lacking in self awareness, and if you're misguided you're only going to do damage. Find yourself in this spot it's best to just move on.

But if they sit back after reviewing all other brands in their market, and look at you thoughtfully, then you're in for a genuinely meaningful relationship. And things are about to accelerate. So you'd best start listening very carefully to what he says next, and respond even more carefully to any questions he postures.

You could be about to begin transitioning from designer to Designer. Or being shown the door if they think you're only able to identify the problem but unable to provide a solution. Conversationalists listen more than they speak, and ask more questions than they make statements.

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Does this actually work as a sales tactic? I could seem some people getting annoyed. Maybe do this by analogy, for a different sector which everyone is familiar with e.g. coffee retail. –  smci Feb 17 at 23:35
    
edited answer to both answer your question and demonstrate the deeper significance of doing this activity with a client or potential client. You're going to be doing it anyways, so there's nothing wrong with making it a transparent process if the client doesn't initially recognise their own needs. –  Confused Feb 18 at 3:12
    
Surely some types of client get pissed if you list off their more successful competitors? Never had this backfire? –  smci Feb 18 at 3:14
    
That'd be an odd situation. No. Never had that response. Anyone with those kinds of deficient sensibilities I'd have long ago refused to work with/for. –  Confused Feb 18 at 3:17
    
The much more interesting questions is... why would you care if the guy gets pissed about being shown the reality of his position in the marketplace? I can't even understand your concern, to be honest. Not from the point of view that I don't recognise that someone could have the concern, I can see that. My concern is that you're concerned about entirely the wrong thing. You're not a slave or courtesan as a designer, you're an ally. The sooner the client recognises the depth and breadth of that alliance the better off you'll both be. –  Confused Feb 18 at 3:21

You can't.

Or, rather, if it's 'their' logo, you have a long, uphill battle.

There are typically two types of logos that clients have:

  1. The one they paid for
  2. The one they drew themselves on a napkin and had their wife's cousin's 3rd nephew draw using MS Paint.

The first is easy to argue to change...it was a business decision, they're spending money again as a business decision...they may very well be rational clients and willing to re-invest in a brand update.

The second can be a land mine. As these aren't necessarily rational clients. Your challenge is to get them to think in terms of business objectives rather than personal preferences. This can be really hard for some small business owners. They may mix nostalgia and emotions into things that really should be cut-and-dry profit/loss type decisions.

You likely won't win the battle by saying "it's ugly".

What you need to do is show them data. Some potential options:

  • competitive analysis. Do research on what the industry they are in is doing. Do they stand out? In a good way?
  • User testing/focus groups. Invest some time into creating some variations. Do blind user testing along the lines of "which of these logos feels 'x' to you?" etc.

The catch, of course, is that those things cost time and money, of which a client like this may not have much interest in spending. The counter to that is to simply say "if you are investing time and money into your rebranding, this is the time to do some analysis of your current identity"

But, even after all that, you still may very well lose the battle. In that case, don't replace their logo but perhaps augment it. Maybe they have a product line and you can emphasize the product logo more than the company logo, for instance.

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Short suggestion: collect similar logos and gently demonstrate that these companies seems dated, out of touch, primitive, untrustworthy, unsophisticated; have gone out of business, have terrible interfaces or something along these lines.

There is also a saying, though, that goes along the lines of "change your logo when the sales department can see the use of it".

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