Show it or say it: how brand familiarity influences the effectiveness of image-based versus text-based logos

Abstract

Some companies use image-based logos (e.g., Pepsi and Apple), while others use text-based logos (e.g., GameStop and Kohl’s). This research examines the influence of brand familiarity on consumers’ responses to these distinct logo formats. Four studies show that when consumers are familiar with a brand, they respond more favorably to image-based logos than to text-based logos. However, when less familiar, consumers prefer text-based logos over image-based logos. Studies include secondary data analysis on the real-world performance of several hundred global brands with logos of varying image-to-text design ratios. Three controlled experiments then identify processing fluency as the mechanism underlying the observed effects. Together, results provide insights for logo design optimization across companies and over a brand’s lifetime, identify brand familiarity as a key consumer-based determinant of logo design effectiveness, and reveal a novel moderator to the common empirical finding that images are favorable to text.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We included an Instructional Manipulation Check (IMC; Oppenheimer et al. 2009) where we asked participants to mark “disagree.” Those who did not (N = 26) were excluded from further analysis. This exclusion criteria did not substantively change results, and analyses of the entire sample is available upon request.

  2. 2.

    The manipulations of color-contrast for the image-based and text-based logos were the same (i.e., the same RGB values for high and low perceptual fluency logos). See stimuli in Fig. 3. Despite this, and consistent with prior literature (Townsend and Kahn 2014; Mitchell 1986), it is unsurprising that consumers did view the image-based logos as more perceptually fluent than the text-based logos. In fact, this is the basis for part of our hypotheses.

  3. 3.

    As in Study 3a, the manipulations of logo meaningfulness for the image-based and text-based logos were similar. See stimuli in Fig. 3. Despite this, and consistent with prior literature (Townsend and Kahn 2014; Mitchell 1986), it is unsurprising that consumers did view the image-based logos as more conceptually fluent than the text-based logos. In fact, this is the basis for part of our hypotheses.

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Morgan, C., Fajardo, T.M. & Townsend, C. Show it or say it: how brand familiarity influences the effectiveness of image-based versus text-based logos. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-020-00760-0

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Keywords

  • Brand familiarity
  • Brand image
  • Brand logos
  • Image and text stimuli
  • Logo design