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Appearances Matter – For People And For Business

Clothes.jpgIf clothes make the man then visual identity makes the business. In an ever-accelerating world, decision-makers use your brand’s identity as a short-cut to make instant judgements about your business, your offerings, your values and, ultimately, your worth to them. That’s why it’s so important to understand, exactly, what your brand is saying about you in any given moment.

Real estate tycoons and investment bankers need to dress like a million bucks. It’s important to their business success that they be seen as able to spend lavishly on their personal appearance. The people with whom they do business read that as a sign of professionalism and accomplishment, mitigating any perceived risk of working with them. In that world, Rolex watches, bejeweled cufflinks and $600 haircuts provide a sense of security. On the other hand, you would look like an idiot if you tried to sell farm implements dressed that way. The top dealmakers in the agribusiness aftermarket, many of whom are tycoons in their own right, are usually dressed in jeans and boots. Salespeople know you have to match up to your market.

The companies they work for also have to dress the part. If you compare the logos of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Caterpillar, you’ll see two very different sets of values expressed. The first projects quiet self-confidence and worldly sophistication. ChaseCaterpillar logos.jpgThe second projects strength and durability with just a hint of danger. What they both have in common is professional design. For instance, in both logos, note how much care is devoted to the kerning (spacing between the letters). That’s important. It’s that kind of attention to detail that imbues the businesses with perceived professionalism. JPMorgan Chase is a really good investment bank. Caterpillar makes really good construction equipment.

Mike Markkula was Apple’s third investor after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. He was also, according to Wozniak, the genius who changed Apple from being an engineering-driven company to a marketing-driven company. Back in Apple’s infancy, Markkula wrote, in a very short outline of his marketing philosophy, “People do judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.” Boy, has that advice ever worked out for Apple.

Your logo, and all that goes with it, is not an expense. It is an investment in your future. If you think of it in the same category as office supplies, you’ll do everything you can to cut costs. Sure – go ahead and do what you can to pay less for paper clips. But if you create your identity on the cheap, think about how that comes across to your market – to that perfect client that you really wanted to impress. No, your logo, and all that goes with it, the color palette, font family, patterns, icons, etc., is your opportunity to express your brand promise. Through your identity system you can convey all the reasons your business attracts the very best – the very best employees and the very best customers.

What level of professionalism do you want to project? What’s it worth to you to appear attractive to your perfect client? What will it take to present as a top player in your market? These are the questions the owner of a brand asset should be asking when considering its identity.

In an instant (some say it’s only 1/10 of one second – your brand expresses who you are and why you’re worth it. Get it right.

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