Is there a correlation between excellence in brand identity and corporate performance? The answer is yes…and no. A review of the logos representing Fortune’s top 100 companies reveals the good, the bad and the ugly in corporate branding. Yes, Apple and Nike are there. Alongside some decent identities from companies you may not have heard of and pathetic ones from very familiar brands.
There’s a tangential reason I did this research. A branding agency whose work in defining brands I admire, published a link bait post that pushed my designer buttons exactly as they intended. “Logos are a waste of space.” What? Seriously? Their explanation was that they only designed wordmarks. To support their position, they reported that over 60 of Fortune’s top 100 companies used wordmarks. As is the case with most statistics, it’s skewed to their perspective.
How do you define a wordmark versus a logo. Simple, right? Coca Cola has a wordmark. Nike has a logo. But what about Walmart? It has both. How do you define identities based on initials—GE, IBM, AT&T? Is Home Depot a logo or a wordmark? I have no idea how the branding agency counted. I do know they used information from this 2010 infographic. The one above is based on the 2016 report.
If you’re a branding and design fanatic you’ll find this chart fascinating. So much to dissect from colours to style, typefaces, classics, rebrands, merger impacts and industry trends. Here are some of the interesting things I noted.
Great Brand Identities
The ones most often cited for excellence are on the list.
Tweaked over time but essentially original with no need to change.
These identities are stronger than words. Great character.
To the Letter
There are 15 companies who abbreviate their brand names to initials in their identities. 3M took a slightly different approach and created a strong memorable brand in the process. Did you know 3M stands for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing? I had to look that up.
The Square Route
Our wordmark isn’t strong enough. I know! Let’s stick it in a square!
Mergers can be brand killers. Sad to see the classic Chase logo at the tail end of JPMorganChase and NBC’s once proud peacock marginalized by Comcast.
Many schools no longer teach cursive writing. I love script typefaces but you have to wonder if the day is coming when a generation won’t be able to read them.
Tired Old Fart
If you can picture the crusty, curmudgeonly Warren Buffett, you’d have to admit this wordmark fits the company’s CEO and Chairman to a tee. There is nothing visual about this brand. It succeeds on reputation alone. Who needs kerning?
American Airlines soars above its competitors. Best representation of the eagle of any brand on the list. It perfectly ties in to flight and the most important placement of their branding—on the tail of the aircraft.
One more thing…
Blue Blue Blue Red Red Green Others. If Henry Ford was alive today, all Ford cars would probably be blue. Ask a client for a colour preference for their logo and they will probably tell you blue. Blue dominates. Blue is safe. Blue has many positive psychological attributes. The only thing blue won’t help your brand do is stand out.
There are many instances in this collection of brands whose great visual identities contribute to strong positive impressions and their overall success as companies. But clearly, it isn’t always the case. Still, you have to wonder why a top five company wouldn’t invest a little more in their brand.
Any other observations? Favourites? Surprises? Let me know in the comments.
See the update.