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Amitava Chattopadhyay

Amitava Chattopadhyay
Emerging Market Multinationals - Amitava Chattopadhyay


Does Your Company Have the Right Logo? How and Why Circular- and Angular-Logo Shapes Influence Brand Attribute Judgments

Five experiments document that the mere circularity and angularity of a brand logo is powerful enough to affect perceptions of the attributes of a product or company. It is theorized and shown that circular vs. angular logo shapes activate softness and hardness associations, respectively, and these concepts subsequently influence product/company attribute judgments through a resource-demanding imagery generation process that utilizes the visuospatial sketchpad component of working memory. There are no logo shape effects on attribute judgments a) when the visuospatial sketchpad component of working memory is constrained by irrelevant visual imagery, b) when people have a lower disposition to generate imagery when processing product information, and c) when the headline of the ad highlights a product attribute that differs from the inference drawn from the logo shape. Further, there are shape effects even when the shape is incidentally exposed beforehand using a priming technique rather than being a part of the logo itself, demonstrating the generalizability of our findings. When taken together, the results have implications for working memory, consumer imagery, and visual marketing.

Why The Shape Of A Company’s Logo Matters

The shape of your logo affects how consumers perceive your organisation, its products and even its behaviour.

While they’re commonly called “intangible assets”, logos matter. GAP learned this lesson when it attempted to change its logo, but quickly abandoned the endeavor after it met with a furious backlash from followers on Twitter and Facebook. The fact that GAP had suddenly decided to update its iconic and classic logo without consulting its loyal fans was just one reason for its failure.

What the retailer hadn’t realised was how the subtle aspects of its logo were perceived and how a complete revamp might affect those perceptions.

As my colleagues and I point out in a new paper, a logo’s shape can affect the judgments people make about the attributes of a company or product. Specifically, we find that circular or angular logos activate associations of “softness” and “hardness” respectively.

These associations extend beyond physical notions of softness and hardness. For example, if a person is reading an ad for a services company, the notion of softness may give the reader the image of the company as being more sensitive to its customers.

Don’t just come up with a new logo, research it first!

The new Airbnb logo has stirred up a veritable hornets nest. Gizmodo yesterday wrote that “The New Airbnb Logo Is a Sexual Rorschach Test For Our Time”! And the BBC today reported that “Airbnb’s new logo faces social media backlash”.

Airbnb new logo on left and spoofs of it to the right!
Airbnb new logo on left and spoofs of it to the right!

This is not the first time that a company has goofed up when renovating or changing its logo. Some years ago, GAP attempted to change to a new logo but abandoned the effort when its new logo met with a fast and furious backlash on both Twitter and Facebook.

It surprises me no end that companies do not seem to recognize the profound influence that logos can have. For instance, even its shape can influence consumer judgments of the physical characteristics of the brand.

As an example, our research shows that angular logos lead consumers to make inferences about the hardness (inflexibility for services) and durability of the product or service associated with the logo. Rounded logos, however, lead consumers to infer that associated products or services are soft (customer responsive for services) and comfortable.

So, to all the companies contemplating refurbishing or changing their logo, please do your homework. Ask consumers what they associate with the new logo, whether they like it,… Going with internal opinions is like playing Russian roulette.

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