A Study of 597 Logos Shows Which Kind Is Most Effective

magine you are a marketing manager about to launch a brand called Noxu, which markets jigsaw puzzles. You just received an email from your CEO, asking you to choose between two logos. Your goal is to choose the one that will make the launch more successful. Which logo should you choose: the one on the right or the one on the left?

Good arguments can be made for either. For instance, if you picked the one on the left, you might have thought your customers prefer simpler designs. If you picked the one on the right, you might have thought the outline of the puzzle piece provides valuable information about the product.

The objective of our latest research was to assist managers with such a choice. To explore whether and when brands benefit more from descriptive or nondescriptive logos, we conducted seven experimental studies and analyzed the effect of logo design on brand equity for 597 companies. If you have not guessed it yet, the logo on the right is what we consider descriptive, and the logo on the left is what we consider nondescriptive.

Do Logos Really Matter?
Logo design choices might seem inconsequential to some. But getting the design right is important for a number of reasons. A well-designed logo can offer substantial benefits to brands. It can help pique the interest of consumers, differentiate brands from competitors, facilitate brand recognition, influence investors’ decisions, and convey what a brand is all about. A logo is also a ubiquitous communication tool that might appear on your company’s products, website, annual report, entryway, and even on your business cards. It is thus a brand element that is frequently seen by stakeholders, particularly consumers.

Furthermore, the design characteristics of logos can considerably impact consumer behavior and brand performance. Prior studies on logos have shown that their simplicity or complexity can influence the funding decisions investors make, and that the their symmetry or asymmetry can boost brand equity.

What Is a Descriptive Logo?
A descriptive logo is a logo that includes textual or visual design elements (or a combination of the two) that clearly communicate the type of product or service a brand is marketing. For instance, the logo of Burger King and that of the New York Islanders (a sports franchise) are descriptive. The former contains the word “burger” and two hamburger buns. The latter includes an ice hockey stick and a puck. Conversely, the logos of McDonald’s and the Minnesota Wild (another sports franchise) are nondescriptive. They contain design elements that are not indicative of the type of product or service these brands are selling.