Marketing & Sales

Financial Services Branding: When and How Should You Redesign Your Company Logo?

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We talked with Ellie about:
  • What a logo should convey about your brand
  • The story behind Out & About’s new logo
  • How taglines should interact with your logo

About Ellie Alexander:

Ellie Alexander is the Design Director at Out & About Communications, where she lives at the intersection of beautiful and functional. Ellie uses design strategically by identifying what makes her clients different to create assets that appeal to their target audience. By creating next-level designs, Ellie can leverage clients’ strengths to promote business growth and success. Ellie has experience with clients of all sizes due to her years working at ad agencies and boutique marketing firms as well as in-house at large and mid-sized companies. 

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:04):
Ellie, we've got you on the show. Hi, glad you're here.

Ellie (00:08):
Thanks for having me.

Lauren (00:10):
For those of you who have not had the pleasure to partner and work with Ellie on projects like our clients have, she's absolutely tremendous. She leads our design and the visuals, and really just the whole brand aesthetic and her background's absolutely tremendous. So we are so pleased to have her on our team and also really excited to talk with her today, specifically about logo designs and rebranding, and maybe I should say brand facelifts, if you will. But Ellie, before we get into all that, please share a little bit about your background, and then we'll get into the whole kit and caboodle and unpack logos and branding. Yeah, so go for it. Share a little bit more about you.

Ellie (00:54):
Absolutely. So yeah, my background is in graphic design. That was my BSS at the University of Minnesota, and after that I've kind of dabbled in different sorts of work environments. I've worked in big ad agencies, I've worked in small design boutiques, I've been at agencies but kind of found myself gravitating toward, like you said, a place of brand facelifts—brand consistencies, from building a brand from the ground up or giving it just a little refresh, and then just nerding out on how we keep that going across every channel, every medium, every touchpoint, and making sure brands tell that cohesive story of who they are and what they do, whether it's a company of five or 5,000.

Lauren (01:36):
And I should have added too that Ellie is helping to put together and really shape out our brand books, which is guiding documentation for the visual side for our clients. And this isn't just logos, fonts, and colors but also looking at everything from video treatment and photography, and we can get into the whole thing. And then she's also looking at all the templates we use and training and overseeing our team that does all the design aesthetic and making sure that for lack of better expressions, kind of brand place, keeping things aligned and keeping it back to those guidelines. So anything else I am forgetting, Ellie, before we jump in more?

Ellie (02:19):
Nope, I don't think so. I think you got it. 

Lauren (02:22):
So we have a really fun topic today. We're going to be talking about logo redesigns. This is especially near and dear to our heart because I feel like I should get a drumroll going. I know we're going to be unveiling a new Out & About Communications logo, which we'll talk about a little bit more in this process but we often work with clients that have been in business for some time. Maybe the logo was designed in the ‘80s, maybe there's a change of target market or direction, and we're really trying to position the company and the market. So Ellie, can you share with us why you would even want to do a logo design? It's a huge undertaking and it impacts so many other things. Why would you want to do it?

Ellie (03:06):
Yeah, why would you touch that? Why would you open that can of worms? So I think actually you touched on the two of the main reasons, and I would say reason number one being if it's just simply outdated. Everything has its time. Everything comes full circle. Even major brands you might look at and think, oh yeah, that logo hasn't changed in 100 years. It probably has. They just might've done it very incrementally. Starbucks, Pepsi, Volkswagen, even a 100-year-old, 150-year-old, 200-year-old company, they will just keep things dialed in to make sure they don't seem outdated. So yeah, just simple as that. Reason number one, if your logo is old enough that it would have a driver's license if it was a human, it's probably time to just do a check. Maybe it doesn't need an overhaul. Maybe it just needs just a little bit of zinging to make sure you're not positioning yourself as outdated right out of the gate if that's the first thing you see. It's like you don't want to show up to a meeting with an ‘80s perm. You don't want that as a first impression. A logo does the same thing.

Ellie (04:19):
I was just going to say I forgot reason number two.

Lauren (04:21):
We'll get into it. I know, because it's going to come back. Are there specific triggers where you see people go, I have to update my logo? Do you see it? Is it just specifically because it's outdated? I'd love to hear if there's a little bit more of a—sometimes it's a change of name. I know we see that and sometimes a change of tagline and then it unpacks all this other stuff. Where are you seeing this go, ah, red flag—we really need to revisit what our logo looks like?

Ellie (04:58):
That's a really good question. I mean, sometimes it’s as simple as honestly, especially if you're a small to medium-sized business, maybe a comment from someone, even if it's like, oh, an offhand comment of, oh, that's your logo, or oh, when did you have that designed? Even as simple as that is, I do think that can be a trigger. I will say the caveat, that's a trigger to take with a grain of salt. Everybody has their opinion but if you start to wonder, don't be afraid to ask people, do you think this still looks up to date? Do you think this reflects who we are? That actually is a segue into number two as you mentioned, especially, okay, if you're changing your name or you're changing your tagline, there's got to be a reason behind that. Oftentimes, especially if you're changing a tagline, it's probably indicative that you're changing something about your service offerings or the mission of your company or what you specialize in.

And that's a really important trigger to say, okay, hey, pause. If we're making a big change to something like that, our name, our tagline, the way we operate, our mission statement, then that's a good trigger to look back at your logo and say, okay, hey, do these things align now? Does this logo make sense with where we're going? Maybe it was perfect for where we were, and maybe it's not outdated. Maybe it's still a perfectly good logo but if it's not putting forward the right essence and not giving the right first impression, then it's just a good time to say, okay, let's just make sure all these things align before we head too far down this path.

Lauren (06:25):
So sometimes we've seen situations where it's like, we'll just tweak the logo, adjust the color. Maybe we adjust something in the way it's laid out—rectangular, elongated—versus can we talk about when you make an adjustment to a logo, what does that actually mean and how does that impact the company's growth? You're small. Yeah, you maybe make a tweak here or there. You're kind of trying to figure it out. But when you make an adjustment, how does that domino and how does that impact all the other assets for your company and how that plays out. Another red flag as a warning: don't just change your logo because let's hear about what that means. 

Ellie (07:12):
You and I were just having a conversation about this, so as relates to us earlier today, it's like, oh, yeah, we change that and that, yeah, it seems simple but you just have to make sure it's in your website but not just the homepage, not just the nav, but in the footer. And what about all the articles your company might've been featured in? What about all the awards you have gotten—like a Best Workplace award? They might have you listed under that old name or that old logo. All your social media profiles and assets, everything that already exists in your social media feed, your email signatures. You just start going down the list and as soon as you think you've covered everything, you're like, oh no, what about that one? Oh, yeah. What about, especially in the age of all these digital tools and platforms we all use, a lot of them, especially the platforms that let you white label. So let's say you've purchased some sort of interface your clients can log into. Well, you have to make sure your logo's updated there and there's the backend of all the programs you might use, your employees’ desktop backgrounds. Yeah, it does just spiral. So to your point, you do want to make sure if you're going to do it, let's do it. 

Lauren (08:20):
And let's talk about that too. What's the effort to be able to go through a logo redesign, and what does that actually look like? I think there's platforms you can go to and spend a small amount of money and get tons of logos, and go with that. You can work with a designer. There's so many kinds; it's wide and varied. Talk about what that, at least for us, what that process looks like and how that impacts other pieces. 

Ellie (08:47):
That's a good question. In the age of especially, I don't even want to know where AI is going to take this. I'm terrified. But yeah, there's places you can go and you can get a logo for $5, and in a year you'll probably be able to get one. Actually, probably next month—you'll probably be able to get one made by a robot. But the thing about those, and I'll segue into the process, is some of those might spit out a lovely logo that looks great. But back to the point I was making earlier is if it doesn't fit you then it's not serving you. It might be beautiful. It might be like, oh, I love it so much, it's my style. But does it convey what you do and what you stand for, and does it appeal to the right people? One thing I really appreciate about the process we use is starting with the brand book. I hope I'm not taking another one of your questions by segue.

Lauren (09:33):
No, go for it. Yeah, this is great.

Ellie (09:36):
But yeah, personally, when we were working on our own logo, one of the first important steps you need to do when you're designing a logo, whether it's designing it from scratch or refreshing, is like, okay, what does it need to communicate? I talk about creative math a lot when I'm talking to our designers, like, okay, what do you do? What do you stand for? What are your values? Plus what's unique about you? And all those things together should inform what your logo looks like. It should convey all those things. So it's this really neat intersection of how do you convey what industry you're in? I've seen beautiful logos walking around. There was a logo I can actually think of in my neighborhood that I used to walk by all the time, and it was beautiful, and I thought it was a boutique. And then I found out two years later it was a dentist. And I was like, well, that's a bummer. It was a beautiful logo. But I never in a million years would've said, oh, that's a dentist's office.

You have to make sure all of those things intersect. So what I like about us starting with the brand book is that on the strategy side, that work is honestly kind of done for the designer before it gets to them. We've defined the brand, personality has been defined, the mission statement has been defined, the audiences have been defined. So then we can take all those things and say, okay, how do we make a graphic out of pixels that says all those things in just a quick snapshot, which is so difficult to do.

Lauren (11:00):
I mean, I've heard in going through exercises, we want something beautiful. But what does beautiful mean? It means so many different things to so many different people and trying to distill that and going through that process. One of the things, Ellie, that I really appreciate you did with our team when we were going through this logo redesign is I feel like you gave us so many gradients of what it could look like, a safe version. This is our logo but it's just a little bit different and here's why. Here's the kind of option two where it's like, okay, now we're starting to deviate. And then option three was like, whoa, we're really deviating. Do we even recognize this? If you were to change clothes or hairstyles or makeup or whatever, maybe share a little bit more about that process. In thinking through that and just presenting it. It was really insightful. And I think it really also seemed, because we had so many people on the call too, and seeing people's inputs, different generations backgrounds. But yeah, share a little bit more about that part of it.

Ellie (11:56):
Yeah, that's the thing. Thanks for asking that. I do feel like that's a really valuable kind of litmus test. One of my favorite things to do with a logo redesign is even when we have it really well defined and we know what we know, the brand personality we're going for, we know who we're trying to appeal to, we know strategically what we're trying to do—have some options. In our case, we were trying to take a logo that had been designed kind of as an industry-agnostic marketing company but now we've evolved to be a financial services-specific marketing company. So we knew that was part of the brief. But even within that, there's still a lot of ways you could take it. So coming in with a bunch of different directions of, yeah, like you said, here's the most edgy we could go.

Here’s the safest we could go. It kind of reminds me, honestly, of those makeover shows. Sometimes they go in and they just give them a new haircut, like a little bit of a trim, and they get them new clothes. And sometimes it's like, no, I want to reinvent myself. I want to be a whole new person. And the person who goes into the curtain looks completely different than the person who comes out. And sometimes you just don't know where your comfort level lies or what is going to feel right until you see it. So you throw those options out and you say, okay, gut check, go. What do you love? What do you hate? And sometimes one of those options will hit the nail on the head. It'll be like, oh, option three, done and done. That feels right. Sometimes none of them will hit it, and the next round of design is something completely different. But at least then that conversation can start. It's that funnel; we've started at the top of the funnel and we're narrowing and narrowing and narrowing until we find the right solution.

Lauren (13:34):
Yeah, it's so true. And it's something you're going to stick with for a while. It's kind of like you're picking a child's name or something. You're going to hear that name a lot, right? And so you want to make sure it fits. It fits. Yeah. It just fits. So, okay. Should we share the logo? Do we want to share the logo, maybe to illustrate where we got to?

Ellie (14:10):
Well, this is the current one. 

Lauren (14:11):
Okay. So let's say this part of this process is we narrowed it down. I also feel like you look at your competitors, you sleep on it, you’ve got to give it time and space. We scaled it. We saw how it could look in so many sizes if it was going to be as small as, I don't know, a stamp. Yeah. So okay, let's take it from this to where we went or where we're going. So I'll let you take it away. 

Ellie (14:48):
Okay. Well, yeah. Essentially, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, this was a case, I think, where this shift we talked about making was because we have shifted. This wasn't like, oh, this logo is so outdated. We designed it when Quark was still the program. There was nothing wrong with this here. This was fine. This could work. If there was another company Out & About Communications this might work for them. But this was designed, was brand new 10 years ago and was serving all sorts of clients across all sorts of industries. But now we are very firmly dedicated to financial services. And this just felt a little too soft, a little too feminine. We wanted something that not only felt a little bit more relevant in the financial services space—number one to feel relevant—but number two to show our clients a little bit more of what you could get from us if we were to work on your brand. But also now our brand personality is more defined. And that was part of the brand book work I was talking about.

Am I allowed to say our brand personality?

Lauren (15:55):
Yeah, let's do it. Let's share it. 

Ellie (15:57):
I wasn’t sure if it was a secret sauce.

Lauren (15:58):
It’s not!

Ellie (16:00):
Yeah, our brand personality is magnetic zest. And what I love about that is that's the energy we try to bring to everything we do, to every client meeting, to every interaction, to every project. Part of the reason why personally, a second part of the reason why I took this, rolled it Out & About, is because I think it's really interesting working in industries or in brands other people might think are dry. Oh, financial services. Oh, banking loans. Oh, financial advisors, that's so boring. But it doesn't have to be; it's only boring if you decide it's going to be boring.

So that's why I really like the intersection of how do we take our brand personality of magnetic zest and marry that with something that feels relevant and kind of the stereotypically stuffy, even though that industry is loosening up a little bit. If you look at some of the SaaS products and other new innovations, the financial services area is definitely opening up and starting to have a little bit more personality. But how do we bring those two together in a little bit more of a relevant way as compared to just where this was and what it was designed for was a different purpose?

Lauren (17:05):
Totally dead on. And by the way, we have a whole other podcast where Tiffany, who's our content director, goes through what the brand personality is. We can link to that below as well. And we further define what magnetic zest is. If someone were to hear that off the street, they'd be like, what in the world? But we go into what that means. It literally is a whole tool, an awesome tool that we talk about on that other podcast. So okay, I feel like, again, drumroll. Do we want to share where we are? Okay, let's talk about where we're at.

Ellie (17:40):
Yeah. Okay. So I'll talk through a few aspects of it. And sorry if I get design jargony; I'll try not to.

So you can tell from the before and after, our name isn't changing. The format isn't changing. The emphasis on an ampersand isn't changing but we picked a tight face that's a lot cleaner, a lot more contemporary. It's not quite as cute. It's a little less cute. It takes itself a little more seriously. We picked an ampersand that's bolder, a color palette with a gradient that's bolder. It's a little bit more sophisticated. And I think honestly, when it comes down to it, it feels more confident. It's got that magnetic zest. It's here, it's not shy, it tells you what it recommends whereas the original might be a little bit more soft spoken.

And one of my favorite parts about this process was—I'm outing myself a little bit here. So we were looking at these ampersands, we're like, okay, we're not changing your name. The ampersand is still going to be a big part of this logo, whatever shape it was. So we had dozens of ampersands, and as I was looking at them all, I was like, I knew this was my favorite. I just knew it but I was having a moment where I couldn't articulate why. And that's bad designer, bad creative director. You should always be able to articulate why.

Lauren (18:59):
But that's where the conversation comes in. 

Ellie (19:03):
You look at it for so many hours and it's like when you look at a word too many times and you're like, that's the real word. And we were in a group meeting with the director team and Lauren and talking about it. And Tiffany, you just mentioned our content director, looked at it. She's like that one because is it a three? Is it that angle that reminds me of a percent sign? Is it a backward seven? There was something about it that felt numeric, and I was like, that's it. That's why it feels right. I couldn't figure it out, but Tiffany got it.

Lauren (19:36):
Yeah, I know. I really love that too, and the insight. And I feel like one of the things I really appreciate about the process as well is you're just so excited and open for the feedback and being able to go back and forth. And I feel like that's one of the great things too, is being able to have that open dialog and feedback to work through what's right, even the font and where it lays and the spacing. And then actually, I'm excited not to give too much away here in a preview but that ampersand, you're going to see that played out in so many fun ways and that gradient. So that is sort of like how a logo actually waterfalls and impacts everything else too.

Ellie (20:23):
It's not just in its bubble. It's like, yeah, what parts of it kind of extend. And I think, yeah, waterfall is a good word. It flows throughout the rest of the touchpoint in the look and feel. 

Lauren (20:32):
Yeah. So fun. Okay, so one more question for you. I feel like, who knows, we might throw in another question but I feel like once you get that logo down and then do the variations of it and that sort of thing but let's talk about taglines and logos. Should you add a tagline to a logo or not? What does that actually mean and what should you be looking for? So I'd love to hear a little bit about that side of things that could potentially be a part of the finished product.

Ellie (21:06):
And I'd say the answer is a little bit of neither here nor there. Yes and no. But that's definitely one. Taglines and logos, I especially feel like it gets to be not a sticking point but kind of sticking point. Especially when you're a small to medium-sized business and you're like, okay, people might not know who I am. I don't have the brand recognition of the other brands we mentioned, Coca-Cola, Nike, whoever, Disney.

We just say who we are. So I think especially with small and medium-sized brands, there's definitely a place for having a version of your logo that's locked up with your tagline but I always encourage brands to not always have one. Even if you're like, no, we need to say who we are. We need to say who we are. It doesn't always have to be in your logo. And I say that mostly because, especially for the long tagline, if your tagline describes a lot of what you do, if you always try to lock that up with your logo and have them together, especially in the age of 70% of email being read on mobile devices and social profile assets that are only 10, 80 pixels wide, you might think you're adding more information to the conversation but it might end up actually doing you a disservice by not being legible at a small size or giving people too much to read or becoming cluttered.

So one of my favorite things to do is just you can have the best of both worlds. If you look at your logo as a separate asset, your tagline as a separate asset, then you think about, actually Nike does this—it's not always the swoosh and Just Do It separately. They use them both. They use them both all the time. But it's kind of like the flex of when do you lead with who you are? When do you lead with what you do? When do you have to have them both together but make sure they're not competing with each other?

Lauren (22:56):
So well said. Yeah, that's really well said. I know, I feel like taglines are one of the really hard things to nail and for it to be scalable, especially if your name's a little bit long. So it gets really tricky. And just to swing it back to the earlier point of strategy can change. So you have to be committed to a name. You really have to be committed to that tagline, just like you're committed to the logo. So it's an all-in kind of commitment and not a we're going to just tweak this on the fly. Oh my goodness. So great. Anything else to add that we're forgetting here?

Ellie (23:32):
I can't think of anything but I'm sure I'll think of something in five minutes after we hang up.

Lauren (23:35):
I know it's fun to nerd out on these kinds of things.

Ellie, thanks for taking us through this. I think logos are so important, and we see them when we look at them all the time. And so that investment in it, it's an investment. And so I feel like if it's done well, again, it waterfalls into everything else. So I appreciate you taking us through some of this process and the thinking and folks got a sneak peek right here and a little bit of the why, right? So yeah, 10 years in, it's nice to be able to take a look back and have a cemented idea of where we are in that look ahead and to help guide that direction. So thank you for it and thanks for all the work you do for our team and clients, Ellie.

It's a lot of fun. Okay. Of course. Thank you. And thanks for letting me nerd out. 

Oh yeah, anytime. Love it. All right, thanks. We'll make sure to include links below and we'll include that old podcast, not old, it's not really that old but that older podcast, the one about brand personalities too. All right. Thanks Ellie. 

Thanks so much, Lauren. Talk to you soon.

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