Logos are Lame

Superstar author-blogger-speaker Scott Stratten recently released his new book, titled “UnBranding.  It’s another epic volume of 100 brand best (and worst) practices.  In the early chapters, Scott tackled the topic of logos…..And why they don’t matter.

Scott’s premise is that people do business with those that they trust to deliver superior customer service, great products, and solid value, regardless of the company’s logo colors, design, etc.  I believe this to be uniformly true.  There is no better example than in the Schmieder household where we do business with Amazon daily, and I’m not even sure they HAVE a logo do they?  If so, I hadn’t noticed.  But Amazon delivers (literally) a great product mix, at good prices, right to your door (I once ordered a lawn mower from Amazon on a Sunday and it arrived later that same day – awesome).

To take this logo thing a step further, I would say that in nearly every case, people don’t do business with a person or company because of their mission or vision statements either.  Most of the mission and vision statements we see are long worded drivel that is trying to be all inclusive.  Very few really tell the reader what the company does specifically, and trying to quantify success is nearly impossible.

Raise your hand if you have ever spent time at a “strategic” planning retreat to define your mission and vision statements.  Right, that is just about everyone, and if you haven’t, unfortunately sometime in the future you will get roped into such a session.  Most often, the result of these wasted hours is a couple paragraphs that are all inclusive of EVERYTHING your organization might touch, now and into the future.  Rather than go through this exhausting exercise, we offer a different approach – build a Scorecard.

The Scorecard (or “Thematic Goal Process”) is something we have borrowed from author/consultant Patrick Lencioni.  Here is the premise:

1.     Define what your company is all about.  Two sentences tops.  Define your DNA.  What are you and your team all about?  If you don’t know, this is a GREAT exercise to chat up around the office, and also ask your clients to give you their take.

2.     Identify your short term “Rallying Cry”.  This is your main goal for the near term.  It could be for a month, a quarter, but rarely longer than a year.  What about your organization needs your immediate attention to support the definition you set forth in item #1?  Revisit this at every staff or leadership meeting.

3.     List the 3-4 things you have to do to achieve the goal in the short-term.

4.     List the 3-4 things that have to be tended to over the long-term to keep the company viable (goal or no goal).

5.     Keep this “scorecard” visible, and rate your progress on each short and long-term regularly.  Lencioni suggest reviewing this scorecard at every weekly staff meeting.  Use red-yellow-green color codes for items that are in need of help (red), on track (yellow), or complete (green). 

This process is pretty simple, and quite effective.  Below is a link to Mr. Lencioni’s process and a sample scorecard (you can also e-mail me directly and I can share with you some examples that we have constructed in the past).


As you can see from this process, there is nothing about logo creation, or mission statements, or visioning exercises, or branding initiatives.  The process is about blocking and tackling the big issues and focusing on the right things as a unified team.  No flowery worded paragraphs with no real meat to them hung on the wall.  This is getting down to business, which is what we should all aspire to every day.  Companies that are constantly rebranding and reorging are just avoiding the real work they should be focusing on.

Forget the 4-hour strategy sessions.  Cancel the annual retreat.  Sit down at the table with your team, build a one-page scorecard, and stay laser focused on the issues at hand.  Conquer that first goal, and move on to the next one. 

Look, nobody is saying logos and some direction aren’t important for your business.  What we ARE saying is that people often spend way too much time on these things and avoid the really important tasks at hand. 

As the famous author and speaker Simon Senek says, “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  And what you do simply proves what you believe.”  Leave the time sucking exercises to someone else.  We have too many important things to do that matter to our stakeholders.  Identify the goals, and let’s go to work.