Executive summary of “Brand logo design: examining consumer response to naturalness”

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Publication date: 16 March 2015


(2015), "Executive summary of “Brand logo design: examining consumer response to naturalness”", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-01-2015-0794



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Executive summary of “Brand logo design: examining consumer response to naturalness”

Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume 24, Issue 1

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.

Marketers have long been aware of the importance of logos with respect to brand identity and distinctiveness. This explains why the design, modification and promotion of brand logos habitually entail considerable investment on the part of firms involved.

More recent research has focused on the potential of logos to prompt affective responses from consumers. Different disciplines have noted the emotional and semantic dimensions that are conveyed. An aesthetically attractive logo is visually pleasing and can additionally help the observer feel emotionally attached to the product, brand or company.

Brand affect is widely acknowledged as important. Such feelings positively impact on how a brand is evaluated and can serve as an antecedent to loyalty. Affect is also an influential cue in situations where consumer involvement with a product is low. Appearance often triggers an initial affective response that serves to shape subsequent evaluation.

Logos can indicate the identity of a brand through words, marks or images. Findings suggest that pictorial logos are most effective in increasing brand value. This impact is further enhanced when they reflect objects which are easily recognized and have well established meanings. Such logos are described as “natural” when compared with logos that incorporate abstract markings. The terms “figurativeness” and “abstractness” are used in some academic circles to explain this contrast. Real-world objects are represented by figurative logos.

Machado et al. put forward the idea that figurative designs can be sub-categorized into:

  • Organic: This refers to logos that portray natural world objects such as faces, animals, sceneries, fruits or flowers.

  • Cultural: Logos of this type represent objects that are manufactured. Examples would include buildings, furniture or boats. The category can also include signs that depict cultural symbols like punctuation marks or markings associated with a religion.

Various studies note that logos depicting such as characters, animals, places or other objects from the “sensitive or real world” take less effort to process due to being more identifiable compared to abstract logos. Interpretation of the latter typically poses a significantly greater challenge.

Natural logos are likely to be the type most preferred because they depict familiar objects within the consumers’ environment. It has been suggested that such preference might be the result of “non-conscious” systems being at work. Earlier studies have indicated that affect could be more profound for natural logo designs relative to those depicting abstractions.

However, similar claims exist when measuring the respective impact of the different figurative designs. Organic objects incorporate “sensitive properties” that enable people to engage with them more quickly. In contrast, cultural objects are less easy to recognize as they lack a “direct biological origin”. The rationale is that a favorable affective response is stronger when a logo can be interpreted more quickly. Some scholars go further by claiming that this supposed partiality toward natural depictions is an inherent trait in human beings.

The possibility exists that affective response might be subject to influence by certain sociodemographic variables. For instance, earlier work has alluded to females being more attracted to such as nature, femininity or other biological-themed designs. Male preference was found to be stronger for cultural designs associated with the likes of technology and machinery. Age is proposed to be potentially significant and one suggestion is that habits become entrenched as people get older. As familiarity provides reassurance to more elderly adults, the assumption is that this cohort will favor natural designs over those which are more abstract.

The authors investigate these issues further in an online survey involving various representatives of Portuguese universities. The 220 respondents were divided into two samples of 113 and 107, respectively. While the two were comparable in terms of age and education level, females were in the majority in the first sample and males in the second.

Both samples were presented with a total of 48 different logos consisting of abstract, organic and cultural designs and asked to categorize them. Respondents were given definitions of the three types beforehand. They were asked to indicate whether they liked or did not like each logo, and this was used to ascertain affect. But the main aim was to measure affect toward the different types of logo design rather than individual objects. Most logos in the set were unknown, although a small number of well-known logos were also included. The purpose of this was to examine the influence of brand awareness and brand attitude, given their acknowledged impact on perceived quality, perceived risk and trust. The non-European logos chosen for the study were obtained from various sources including researchers, books, Web sites and blogs.

Analysis revealed that in both study samples:

  • The affect was significantly higher toward both type of natural logo designs than toward abstract log designs.

  • Affect toward organic logos was considerably stronger than affect toward cultural and abstract logos.

  • Markedly higher affect was evident toward known logos than toward unknown logos.

In addition, support was found in sample 1 for the prediction that:

  • Females are more inclined toward logo designs associated with nature.

  • An association exists between age and affect, especially regarding cultural logo designs.

Educational level had no real bearing on the affect toward the different types of logo design. Some evidence pointed to the fact that certain individuals exhibit a higher level of affect toward logos in general, regardless of design type and whether they are familiar with the log or not. That older consumers favored well-known logos, which was attributed to the fact that awareness with cultural objects increases as people age.

A key conclusion by Machado et al. from this study is that “naturalness” has the greatest effect on how consumers respond to brand logos. It is, therefore, considered imperative that this characteristic is incorporated into the design of a logo. They additionally note the similar levels of affect toward unknown organic logos and well-known abstract logos. The significant of this lies in the fact that an organic logo has the capacity to negate the advantage of brand awareness when an abstract logo is used for the latter. Creating an organic logo is more cost-effective than developing brand awareness and on this evidence will have a similar impact.

It is recommended that future research considers different samples and additional measures of affect. Further investigation into the significance of the socioeconomic variables and the possible interaction between them is another option to pursue. The authors outline plans to augment the present work with other experiments.

To read the full article enter 10.1108/JPBM-05-2014-0609 into your search engine.

(A précis of the article “Brand logo design: examining consumer response to naturalness”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)