The branding challenge: displaying only your logo.

Do you confuse your customers with cross-branding? What’s that? You don’t know what that means? Well, you could have been doing it all along, costing your company valuable, independent exposure.

GLD_BrandsCross-branding is when another company’s logo or slogan is displayed right alongside your own, thus confusing the audience as to which one belongs to you. Here are a couple of examples using the most common cross-branding mistake – logo apparel.

Turn on any major news channel during the winter and you’ll see reporters standing out in the freezing cold wearing a “North Face” logo coat. Sometimes they have the network or affiliate logo on it as well, but the brand of the outerwear manufacturer is nearly always more prominent.

In another situation, a roofing sales representative comes by your house to perform a repair estimate. His shirt displays the roofing company logo on the right side, breast pocket, and a Nike “swoosh” on the left. Seeing the problem yet?  No? OK, one more example.

Suppose, because you are an expert in your particular industry, you are selected to lead a professional panel discussion at an important trade show. Your session is early in the morning and you bring along some coffee in one of those insulated, aluminum travel mugs with a PPittsburgh Steelers logo stamped on the outside. Other than the generic,”HELLO, MY NAME IS,” name tag suspended around your neck in a cheap, vinyl holder, you carry no visible markings representing your company.

For the full length of the panel discussion, the football team’s logo is featured prominently next to you in front of everyone in the room. Unless you manage to say your name and company every time you speak, the only visual, memory association the audience will have of you is the sports logo on the cup. Why aren’t you carrying a cup with your own logo on it, or none at all?

By now, the point of all this should be pretty clear. Some might call it, “shameless self-promotion,” but we at GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing refer to it as “associative marketing,” where you do everything possible to get as much visibility as you can in each situation – without going overboard.

Displaying duplicate logos, regardless of the medium (shirts, caps, vehicle wraps, websites, etc.) is confusing to potential customers who are as yet unfamiliar with your brand. Some people might think it doesn’t matter. “I love OSU, and people love OSU, and my logo is big enough,” one man said when asked about why his staggeringly undersized logo was embroidered on a fur-trimmed overcoat clearly purchased from The Ohio State University’s winter parka collection. Is he serious?

GLD Enterprises owner, Gery L. Deer in a promotional photo from 2013 - all around him are GLD Enterprises logos.

GLD Enterprises owner, Gery L. Deer in a promotional photo from 2013 – all around him are GLD Enterprises logos.

It’s also important to remember that customers will generally remember more the experience of working with you rather than a logo. But if continuous brand exposure is what you’re trying to get, do your best not to confuse potential customers with logo overload. Yours should be the only logo they see next to your name or a photo of you and your staff.

About now someone is probably asking, what about a situation where you sell a high-recognition product at your business, such as a contractor who installs Owens Corning insulation? Is it then appropriate to have both your logo and the product brand on apparel or other promotional items? The short answer is, no. While there are exceptions, keep in mind that the point of promotional items like clothing and mugs is to create visibility and recognition for your brand, not someone else’s.

Many advertising professionals still tend to follow what’s known as the “Rule of 7,” the psychological concept that people need to see something (in this case, a logo) at least seven times before they remember it. However, in this age of 12-second news cycles, smart phones, Internet-connected eye wear and social media, people are flooded with thousands of advertising images every day and a brand has to be seen many more than seven times to be remembered.

While many are just unaware of the conflicting message they’re sending, others are proceeding from a false assumption. Contrary to some opinions, stamping your brand next to a “North Face” or “LL Bean” logo won’t help your visibility. The better-known brand will always overshadow the lesser.

Additionally, while everyone wants the highest quality apparel or promotional items, the well-known brand doesn’t necessarily mean better products. A promotional items professional can help you find just the right product for your brand, and you should insist that there is no other logo on the product before yours is added.