As somebody who's happened to advise personal brands and small businesses about their marketing stuff I often receive some form of this question:
"Which logo do you think I should get?"
A business owner who had just received twelve variations of the same piece of graphics trying to wrap her head around the difference between them, and to make "the right" choice is classic.
It's hard to choose when you barely see the difference, right?
In most cases my answer is: "Close your eyes, point at any one of them, and you'll be just fine. It's not worth your time and energy".
This is not a conventional thing to say when you consult a personal brand, yet I'm convinced that the time and the energy should be spent differently if you want your logo to be as powerful as, say, Apple or Nike.
Inspired by Brian Solis "What is a Purpose of a Logo…"
I decided to finally share what really creates a powerful logo.
And what it has to do with Pavlov's Dog.
You may remember that Ivan Pavlov, a famous Russian physiologist, introduced classical conditioning through experiments with a dog. A dog receive a meaningful stimulus (food) and neutral stimulus (a ring of a bell) at the same time. After so many repetitions Pavlov observed that the neutral stimulus caused the same physiological reaction in a dog as a meaningful stimulus would. That is, a dog started salivating and getting excited when she heard the bell, even when there was no food around.
Later on a more advanced experiment with monkeys in Friburg, Switzeland showed that mammal brain produces dopamine (a hormone of reward and satisfaction) as response to meaningful experience (again, food). When the reward was associated with a neutral stimulus (a glow of a light bulb), eventually the light bulb would cause dopamine production even in the absence of food. In other words, monkeys start feeling good about the light bulb.
It's called classical conditioning, and humans share it with dogs, monkeys, and other beautiful creatures here on Earth. What physiology has to do with logos?
Well, if you ever happen to show your logo to humans, physiology has everything to do with it.
A logo is essentially nothing but a meaningless neutral visual stimulus.
What makes it powerful, is the meaningful experience people have in association with this logo. As an entrepreneur you are the one responsible for the experience, not your graphic designer.
We don't feel the way we feel around Apple logo because of the design. We feel the overall rewarding experience we have with Apple products when we see the logo. Even if there's no Apple products around, the logo gives you the hint of that magnificent experience of holding a new precious MacBook in your hands.
The logo designer didn't create it, the whole company did, and classical conditioning finished the job.
That being said, a logo can be "good" or "bad" because it can already have associations with something that's considered classy, or ugly, or offensive, or cheap…
But even then the experience that you provide to those who associate you with the logo will disrupt that conditioning and create a new one.
The short of it is: Pavolv's dog teaches us that a logo won't do the job, that you as experience provider is supposed to do.