Over the years I’ve promoted the concept of embracing product safety and then turning it into a competitive sales advantage. To be honest, I’ve had varying degrees of success sharing that message. Fact is, so few of your distributor sales colleagues feel comfortable leaning in on responsibility and sustainability initiatives, that you could actually find yourself standing alone on the right side of protecting your clients.
A new study shows that you could begin a safety discussion starting with your clients’ logo design needs. While you’re not likely to influence a Fortune 500 client’s main brand logo, you might have the opportunity to suggest a safety message communicated using a secondary decoration, and there is now research with suggestions on just how to do that.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that compact logos can encourage favorable brand evaluations and signal product safety. Consumers frequently see symbolic meaning with logos, and a logo that appears to be robust implies that the brand’s products are safe to use. Compact logos signal robustness like compact structures tend to be sturdy and secure. The study found that the effect happens most with text-only logos, because people are sensitive to the amount of space between written letters. Tight lettering implies sturdiness, too much space signals vulnerability.
The results were confirmed even in experiments done during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public health guidance focused on physical distancing. While you may not have noticed, some brands subtlety added space between letters in their logo to communicate unspoken support for social distancing.
"We found fairly consistent patterns in these responses, even during the pandemic, when some brands were experimenting with placing the letters of logos farther apart to emulate a social distancing signal," said Boston College Associate Professor of Marketing Henrik Hagtvedt, a co-author of the paper on the research.
The researchers analyzed data from 17,000 consumers rating the logos of 629 brands. Compact logos, where tight tracking leaves less space, encouraged favorable brand attitudes when compared to loose logos, where a loose format creates a more spacious appearance. According to consumers, compact logos signaled that the brand was reliable, secure, and trustworthy.
"It is important to know what kind of signal a logo sends," said Hagtvedt. "Businesses spend millions on not just designing their logos, but on using their logos in brand communications. It is arguably the most prominent representation of a brand, wherever that brand operates. It has an enormous influence on consumers. To design and deploy a logo haphazardly is a questionable practice."
How about you? Have you found yourself so focused on the embroidery or screen process of a secondary decoration that you might have overlooked the unspoken message that the text or design itself may be sending for your end-user clients? This is a unique opportunity for you to really focus on product safety messaging to differentiate yourself from your competitors. As we emerge slowly from the effects of the pandemic, there is no better time to use it to your advantage.
Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.