Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Character Logo Design & Mascot Logo Design Examples: Inspiration for Your Small Business

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Why Character Based Logos Work for Small Business Brands

Character logos and mascots from the 1930s through the 1940s, and even those used later in the 1950s and 1960's we're often employed in the marketing of different brands and their products. From the Michelin Man to Tony the Tiger, these characters helped build brand recognition, and were images that served to evoke emotions for the viewer, and connect in a more meaningful way than simple typography or photography ever could. While this technique was heavily favored during these periods, it started to lose popularity in the 1970s, and up until a more recent resurgence in retro and nostalgic branding, has been a relatively unpopular branding technique employed by small businesses.

Retro Branding is Back

We've certainly seen a huge resurgence in demand for retro branding, and especially retro branding employing characters and mascots for small businesses at our small business advertising agency. We firmly believe in this style of branding and vintage logo design - especially branding that employs characters - which are used to serve as the foundation for a small business brand campaign. The feeling these characters help evoke, and the sense of nostalgia they connote is one that resonates with many viewers across a broad demographic spectrum. These logos instill trust in the brand, they portray longevity - even if the brand is new. And they make the business appear reputable. But more importantly - they create memorable brands.

Making a memorable brand for a small business is challenging. They don't have the money that large businesses have to invest in creating brand awareness. So, the small business needs to make sure their image stands out in a meaningful way, and leaves a lasting impression. Character based logos tend to do that - because the viewer connects to the brand in a more meaningful way than other branding techniques. And the fact that this type of branding and vintage logo design is still relatively unpopular is all the more reason why it works so well; it's unexpected, it appears fresh - and the viewer probably hasn't seen it before.

Below are a few examples of some of our favorite character logo design samples, and mascot logo design samples.

Character Logo Design Samples

Here's a cute little character logo that helps brand this HVAC company in Illinois.

The character in this logo promises "Your clothes, delivered with Courtesy' which is their tagline. A memorable character logo which has helped make them the leader in their Rhode Island market.

This cute duct mascot logo design really evokes a playful, yet memorable brand image for this duct cleaning business.

We're friendly, and we're here to help. This unique character logo design is memorable and easily understood, especially from a distance when employed on company vehicles.

Notice this outlet in this character based logo design example? A nice retro-themed design that speaks to the company's longevity, and service.

The mascot logo design was a creative way to distinguish this brand from larger, national franchises.

Need something fixed around the house? This character based logo design speaks of honesty, trustworthiness, and professionalism.

The cute nerd in the character logo design is going to fix your computer, fast.

A bug mascot for this pest control business is still friendly, thus avoiding the usual scare tactic approach that most pest control businesses employ in their branding.

A chocolate store with a cute character logo design.

This fun character logo design is simple, easy to understand and works well with the company name.

Here's a playful character based logo and illustration for this established sign company.

This mascot logo design makes it clear who is this boss for this hockey retail store.

Definitely inspired by the advertising characters of yesteryear, this character logo design stands out among all the usual approaches employed by landscape contractors.

Need some one to fix your plants? The illustration for this mascot and character logo design can do it.

The mascot in this mascot logo design is really a smart ass. Good luck trying to catch him!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Designing Effective Truck Wraps for Small Businesses

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Making the Most of Your Company's Vehicle Advertising and Truck Wraps

Vehicle advertising for Rhode Island-Based dry cleaner. We've all seen the truck and vehicle wrap advertising on the road whose design makes us believe - if we knew nothing else about the company - that it was part of this company's fleet of vehicles. And we've also seen the flip side of vehicle advertising - when, because of the design of the vehicle's graphics, it's clear that the company has only one or two trucks - or worse yet - you can't even read the message or know who it was for.

Most clients really don't give this a lot of thought. As designers, our job to find out what image they are trying to portray, who their audience is,  and design accordingly - while designing for the medium as well.

Not all vehicles need a full wrap.
Advertising is about perception. What we do is build a perception of our client’s business for the public to see and hopefully buy into. We make the client look the part, by carefully considering how that each element of their branding is integrated into their vehicle advertising and the perception it will ultimately portray - especially this very public medium.

Start with a solid brand, then build around the brand and integrate on the vehicles.

Along with branding and logo development, most of the clients who come to us are looking for a more professional and unified presentation of brand identity. One component of the implementation of their brand is obviously how it is portrayed on their vehicles.Without a good brand, vehicle advertising is almost certain to fail, or be ineffective.

Truck wraps need to stand out - not fit in.
Many of these clients are very small businesses, sometimes with only one or two service vans. They are hoping we can help with them present their business as a larger, more professional and reputable firm. They want to look like the bigger firms--even if, in reality, they aren't.

Sometimes there are very basic design traits that give the connotation of being part of a fleet. Generally, it's a simplified design element that remains consistent, or simple way in which the brand, or brand icon, is portrayed. Another technique we like to use is horizontal striping elements. Whether on a van, pickup or truck, it's a simple technique that works well to give the appearance of a fleet or franchised business.

We know when we've done our job

Competing with the big franchises requires a similar approach.
Our best compliment is when a client tells us a story of pulling up to their customers’ homes, and having the customer tell them that they “see their trucks all over.” We both share a good laugh especially if, in reality they have only one truck. That’s the power of good vehicle advertising.

So, while vehicle wraps with confusing pictures, competing graphics and non-existent branding seem to be all the rage these days, take a step back for a minute. Think long and hard about the message and how best to communicate it. So many wraps fail in basic design principles.

It seems to me that many wraps are designed for the sake of the designer’s ego, or what currently looks cool or trendy at the moment. Remember: as designers our job is communicate our client’s message as effectively as possible.

Here are a few examples of jobs we’ve designed for various clients who shared a similar request: Make us look bigger, more reputable, better established—and at the same time—reinforce our brand identity. Or for even more examples, check out our portfolio from our NJ advertising agency of some great vehicle wrap examples for other small businesses.

Graphic D-Signs, Inc - The Small Business Advertising Agency is a New Jersey based advertising agency serving the marketing needs of small business with logo and branding creation, web design and online marketing, print design and collateral development and traditional advertising and consultation services.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How Your Ego May Be Holding Back Your Small Business

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.
“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” — David Ogilvy
“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” – David Ogilvy
Having worked with over 600 small businesses owners in the past 15 years on their small business marketing and advertising needs, I’ve learned a few common characteristics that extremely successful businesses owners share. And conversely, it becomes very clear what the characteristics of the mediocre businesses are.

My Own Path to Success

Having grown up lettering signs and vehicles, I had a passion for letters and sign design. After graduating from college with a degree in Communications & Advertising, I knew my life would revolve around type and design. But I had this notion that as long as I was doing what I loved, the money wasn’t that important.

Soon after launching my company, a few events transpired which changed my focus on my business, and caused me to rethink my priorities and direction. First, at a few industry conventions, I had the opportunity to meet some super-talented designers. While the awe of meeting some of these folks was inspiring, what stuck out to me were the financial difficulties that most were experiencing. That really hit home, and frankly, scared me. Because I thought to myself, “Man, I couldn’t hold a candle to these guys - how am I going to ever make it?”

The impending birth of my twins was the other event that caused me to rethink my focus. With a wife unable to work and a mortgage, health insurance and car payments to make, I knew I needed to make myself a businessman first—and an artist second.

I also didn’t like where I saw the sign and graphics industry heading. It seemed to be becoming much more commoditized, and I knew that I wanted to avoid that. So I slowly began to formulate my plan to offer our clients more—and to become more of a small business advertising agency.

Those events transpired over 13 years ago. Today, my NJ advertising agency is doing exactly what I set out to do. We stand as an 8-person advertising agency, focused on the marketing needs of small businesses.

While there are many factors that led to our growth, the two primary reasons were (1) putting my ego aside for the sake of the company, and (2) aggressively marketing the business to attract the type of clients I wanted to work with.

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

What does ego have to do with success? For me, it has meant never being afraid to hire people who are better than myself. Like Ogilvy says, I’ve built my own version of a company of giants by surrounding myself with some very creative people who complement my own skill sets.

Take Jeffrey Devey, my Senior Illustrator, as a perfect example. Jeff is a brilliant illustrator and logo designer. While typography and brand implementation are my strengths, illustration is not my forte. Together, Jeff and I make a great team when it comes to building small business corporate identities. So instead of using my lack of illustrative ability as a crutch to explain mediocre work, Jeff has allowed us to produce great work together.

Each hire has been a methodical and conscience choice to bring another expert on staff. Whether it’s a writer, web designer, programmer, marketing strategist or SEO expert, each team member succeeds in making the company better. Had I chosen to be afraid of hiring people who were smarter than me, there’s no way I’d have built what I’ve built today. Instead I would have only had myself and my ego to blame for my lack of success.

Marketing Yourself to Build the Right Business

Over the years, I’ve invested a significant amount of resources into the marketing of our business. It’s one area we’ve been very aggressive with, whether in a good economy, or more recently, a bad one.

I’ve made it a priority for the company to reinvest in both online and print initiatives, both of which have brought back huge returns on investments. And it’s a constant, ongoing, aggressive strategy. Because no matter how successful our efforts are, they can always be improved upon.

Our recently redesigned site is a perfect example. Our last site, which was previously redesigned 4 years ago was generating about 20-25 leads per week. So why would you change it? First, it didn’t represent our best work and abilities. Second, it didn’t represent the image I wanted to portray, or a medium that I felt would carry us for the next 3 or 4 years. It didn’t communicate who we were, and more importantly, where I wanted us to go. I also wanted to be prepared when the economy really gets going. So I made a tremendous investment in time and money to redo it - to the tune of over 300 man hours. To do the math on that—at our hourly creative rate of $125/hr—it amounted to nearly $40,000 in billable time that I put back into the company. And the results have been what I expected: better-qualified leads and an improved ability to attract the right type of clients.

The Successful Business Owners Mentality

I’ve witnessed firsthand the common characteristics of Successful Business Owners because I’ve had the pleasure of working with them on building their businesses and helping them become even more successful. Much of their success goes back to ego. They’re not afraid to work with other professionals who are experts in their chosen fields—and who allow business owners to focus on what they do best: running their business.

Successful Business Owners are also not content or complacent, because they realize that staying on top means constantly reinvesting in their business and anticipating the future. That means surveying the lay of the land, and taking concrete steps to work toward specific goals. They’re forward thinking, constantly staying on top of trends in their industry. They’re also constantly educating themselves about their clients and market conditions. They work on their business, not in their business—and they’re graet at planning and executing strategies for the future instead of being reactionary. They know where they want to go, and they’re focused on putting together the team to help them get there.

Successful Business Owners also keep company with others who are successful, sharing that can-do mentality while purposely avoiding those who instead insist ‘you can’t’. And they hire people to support their mission to build a great company.

The Mediocre Business Owners Mentality

While it’s very easy to blame the economy for many businesses failing (and surely that may be the primary reason for many), smart business owners took steps to prepare themselves for a rainy day. It’s easy for people to make a living in a good economy, but when that fails, you quickly see which businesses continue to survive—and even thrive—because of their planning.

What happened to these businesses that are hurting today? For many, they let their own ‘success’ blind them to the realities on the horizon. I call this the ‘complacency syndrome.’ This concept runs through an owner’s psyche, impacting nearly every decision they make. One classic example we see frequently involves poor branding and logo design. Countless small businesses have poor logos and brands, and have for years, underestimated its importance and how it impacts their business. The Successful Business Owner grasps the importance, and is ready to take their business to the next level and invest in better marketing tools, starting with the basic foundation: their brand. The Mediocre Business Owner is blind to how their branding is hurting them because their own ‘success,’ in their mind, validates their poor brand identity.

One of my favorite quotes around the office is ‘success in spite of a poor identity is not a valid reason to perpetuate it.’

The Mediocre Business Owner generally refuses to pay anyone for services they think they can do themselves. They instead waste valuable time doing things that they don’t do well, and at the same time, they fail to understand how that mentality is poor use of their time. It also usually reflects poorly on their business, especially when it involves marketing.

Take web design for example. It’s the storefront of your business, and should be the primary way you advertise your business (via effective search engine marketing). So instead of working on income-generating tasks, many attempt to build their own site. But just because you theoretically can build a web site, it does not make you a web designer. Again, their ego has gotten in the way of a rationale business decision. And while I applaud their interest in learning new skills, it sometimes comes at the expense of their own business.

Think of the irony of a contractor paying $40,000 for a new van, thousands of dollars for tools, and then failing to properly invest in marketing that line of business. That Mediocre Business Owner instead sees spending $5000 or so on a site that represents his business well—and generates leads—as something he doesn’t need. Where’s the logic in such thinking?

And when it comes to employees, the mediocre business owner usually can’t see hiring anyone who is better at tasks than they are, because doing so would only serve to remind them of their own shortcomings. And no one likes a daily reminder of their own shortcomings, so it’s much easier to surround yourself with mediocrity. After all, it’s better to feel superior around people whose skills aren’t up to par with your own. And this only reinforces their ego. They know everything, and everyone else knows nothing. After all, they’re the boss, right?

Ready to Grow Your Business and Become a Smart Business Owner?

Are you prepared to help your business grow? You’ll need to ask yourself the hard questions and answer honestly about yourself and your own skills. Create a checklist of critical business tasks, and rate your abilities. Maybe you won’t like what you hear. The real question is: What do you with your newfound wisdom, and can your ego handle the obvious solutions? Consider checking yours at the door, and maybe you’ll start down the path of building a company of giants.

At Graphic D-Signs, we’re proud of our history and success stories in working with Smart Business Owners. We share the passion they feel about their business, and we live for their successes. We’re about building their businesses cost-effectively, and at the same time, having fun doing it.

Graphic D-Signs, Inc - The Small Business Advertising Agency is a New Jersey based advertising agency and marketing agency in nj rving the marketing needs of small business with logo and branding creation, web design and online marketing, print design and collateral development and traditional advertising and consultation services.