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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
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.
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.
Aaker, D. A. (1996). Building Strong brands. New York: The Free.
Abelson, R. P. (1985). A variance explanation paradox: When a little is a lot. Psychological Bulletin, 97(1), 129–133.
Ackerberg, D. A. (2001). Empirically distinguishing informative and prestige effects of advertising. The Rand Journal of Economics, 32(2), 316–333.
Alba, J. W., & Hutchinson, J. W. (1987). Dimensions of consumer expertise. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(4), 411–454.
Baldinger, A. L. (1996). Brand loyalty: The link between attitude and behavior. Journal of Advertising, 36(6), 22–35.
Barry, T. E., & Howard, D. J. (1990). A review and critique of the hierarchy of effects in advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 9(2), 121–135.
Bharadwaji, S. G., & Menon, A. (1993). Determinants of success in service industries: A PIMS-based empirical investigation. Journal of Services Marketing, 7(4), 19–40.
Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2003). Consumer–company identification: A framework for understanding consumers’ relationships with companies. Journal of Marketing, 67(2), 76–88.
Bornstein, R. F., & D'Agostino, P. R. (1994). The attribution and discounting of perceptual fluency: Preliminary tests of a perceptual fluency/attributional model of the mere exposure effect. Social Cognition, 12(2), 103–128.
Bower, G. H., Karlin, M. B., & Dueck, A. (1975). Comprehension and memory for pictures. Memory & Cognition, 3(2), 216–220.
Brand Finance (2016). Global 500 2016: The most valuable brands of 2016. Retrieved July 20, 2016 from http://brandirectory.com/league_tables/table/global-500-2016.
Bronnenberg, B. J., Dubé, J. P. H., & Gentzkow, M. (2012). The evolution of brand preferences: Evidence from consumer migration. American Economic Review, 102(6), 2472–2508.
Brown, T. J., Barry, T. E., Dacin, P. A., & Gunst, R. F. (2005). Spreading the word: Investigating antecedents of consumers’ positive word-of-mouth intentions and behaviors in a retailing context. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 33(2), 123–138.
Bu, K., Kim, D., & Lee, S. Y. (2009). Determinants of visual forms used in print advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 28(1), 13–47.
Carr, T. H., McCauley, C., Sperber, R. D., & Parmelee, C. M. (1982). Words, pictures, and priming: On semantic activation, conscious identification, and the automaticity of information processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8(6), 757–777.
Chae, B., & Hoegg, J. (2013). The future looks ‘right’: Effects of horizontal location of advertising images on product attitude. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(2), 223–238.
Childers, T. L., & Houston, M. J. (1984). Conditions for a picture-superiority effect on consumer memory. Journal of Consumer Research, 11(2), 643–654.
Choi, S. M., & Rifon, N. J. (2012). It is a match: The impact of congruence between celebrity image and consumer ideal self on endorsement effectiveness. Psychology & Marketing, 29(9), 639–650.
Cian, L., Krishna, A., & Elder, R. S. (2014). This logo moves me: Dynamic imagery from static images. Journal of Marketing Research, 51(2), 184–197.
Dang, C., Li, Z. F., & Yang, C. (2018). Measuring firm size in empirical corporate finance. Journal of Banking & Finance, 86, 159–176.
David, M. (2014). The makings of a perfect logo. Retrieved September 25, 2019 from https://www.tastyplacement.com/infographic-fonts-colors-logos.
Dielman, T. E. (1991). Applied regression analysis for Business and economics. Boston: PWS-Kent Publishing Company.
Dion, K. K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(3), 285–290.
Edeling, A., & Himme, A. (2018). When does market share matter? New empirical generalizations from a meta-analysis of the market share-performance relationship. Journal of Marketing, 82(3), 1–24.
Edell, J. A., & Staelin, R. (1983). The information processing of pictures in print advertisements. Journal of Consumer Research, 10(1), 45–61.
Epstein, S. (1994). Integration of the cognitive and the psychodynamic unconscious. American Psychologist, 49(80), 709–724.
Ferraro, R., Bettman, J. R., & Chartrand, T. L. (2009). The power of strangers: The effect of incidental consumer brand encounters on brand choice. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(5), 729–741.
Fornell, C., Johnson, M. D., Anderson, E. W., Cha, J., & Bryant, B. E. (1996). The American customer satisfaction index: Nature, purpose, and findings. Journal of Marketing, 60(4), 7–18.
Graf, L. K., & Landwehr, J. R. (2017). Aesthetic pleasure versus aesthetic interest: The two routes to aesthetic liking. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 15.
Grohmann, B. (2008). The effect of logo design on brand personality perceptions. Nova Scotia: Halifax.
Hagtvedt, H. (2011). The impact of incomplete typeface logos on perceptions of the firm. Journal of Marketing, 75(4), 86–93.
Hansen, J., Dechene, A., & Wänke, M. (2008). Discrepant fluency increases subjective truth. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 687–691.
Hart, R. P. (1997). Analyzing media. In Modern Rhetorical Criticism (2nd ed., pp. 177–208). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Publications.
Heilman, C. M., Bowman, D., & Wright, G. P. (2000). The evolution of brand preferences and choice behaviors of consumers new to a market. Journal of Marketing Research, 37(2), 139–155.
Henderson, P. W., & Cote, J. A. (1998). Guidelines for selecting or modifying logos. Journal of Marketing, 62(2), 14–30.
Hsee, C. K., & Rottenstreich, Y. (2004). Music, pandas, and muggers: On the affective psychology of value. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(1), 23–30.
Iyer, A., & Oldmeadow, J. (2006). Picture this: Emotional and political responses to photographs of the Kenneth Bigley kidnapping. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36(5), 635–647.
Jacoby, L. L., & Kelley, C. M. (1987). Unconscious influences of memory for a prior event. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13(3), 314–336.
Janiszewski, C., & Meyvis, T. (2001). Effects of brand logo complexity, repetition, and spacing on processing fluency and judgment. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(1), 18–32.
Johnson, P. O., & Neyman, J. (1936). Tests of certain linear hypotheses and their application to some educational problems. Statistical Research Memoirs, 1, 57–93.
Johnson, E. J., & Russo, J. E. (1984). Product familiarity and learning new information. Journal of Consumer Research, 11(1), 542–550.
Joye, Y., Steg, L., Ünal, A. B., & Pals, R. (2016). When complex is easy on the mind: Internal repetition of visual information in complex objects is a source of perceptual fluency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42(1), 103–113.
Keller, K. L. (1993). Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing, 57(1), 1–22.
Keller, K. L. (2003). Brand synthesis: The multidimensionality of brand knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(4), 595–600.
King, M. F., & Balasubramanian, S. K. (1994). The effects of expertise, end goal, and product type on adoption of preference formation strategy. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 22(2), 146–159.
Krishnan, H. S., & Shapiro, S. (1996). Comparing implicit and explicit memory for brand names from advertisements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2(2), 147–163.
Kuenzel, S., & Halliday, S. V. (2008). Investigating antecedents and consequences of brand identification. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 17(5), 293–304.
Labrecque, L. I., & Milne, G. R. (2012). Exciting red and competent blue: The importance of color in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(5), 711–727.
Labroo, A. A., & Lee, A. Y. (2006). Between two brands: A goal fluency account of brand evaluation. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(3), 374–385.
Labroo, A. A., Dhar, R., & Schwarz, N. (2008). Of frog wines and frowning watches: Semantic priming, perceptual fluency, and brand evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(6), 819–831.
Lam, S. K., Ahearne, M., Mullins, R., Hayati, B., & Schillewaert, N. (2013). Exploring the dynamics of antecedents to consumer–brand identification with a new brand. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41(2), 234–252.
Latour, K. A., & Deighton, J. A. (2018). Learning to become a taste expert. Journal of Consumer Research, 46(1), 1–19.
Lee, A. Y., & Labroo, A. A. (2004). The effect of conceptual and perceptual fluency on brand evaluation. Journal of Marketing Research, 41(2), 151–165.
Lieberman, M. D., Gaunt, R., Gilbert, D. T., & Trope, Y. (2002). Reflexion and reflection: A social cognitive neuroscience approach to attributional inference. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 34, 199–249.
MacInnis, D. J., Moorman, C., & Jaworski, B. J. (1991). Enhancing consumers’ motivation, ability, and opportunity to process brand information from ads: Conceptual framework and managerial implications. Journal of Marketing, 55(1), 32–53.
Madden, T. J., Hewett, K., & Roth, M. S. (2000). Managing images in different cultures: A cross-national study of color meanings and preferences. Journal of International Marketing, 8(4), 90–107.
Margulies, W. P. (1977). Make most of your corporate identity. Harvard Business Review, 55(4), 66–74.
McQuarrie, E. F., & Mick, D. G. (1999). Visual rhetoric in advertising: Text-interpretive, experimental, and reader-response analyses. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(1), 37–54.
Messaris, P. (1997). Visual persuasion: The role of images in advertising. London: Sage.
Meyvis, T., Goldsmith, K., & Dhar, R. (2012). The importance of the context in brand extension: How pictures and comparisons shift consumers’ focus from fit to quality. Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 206–217.
Mitchell, A. A. (1986). The effect of verbal and visual components of advertisements on brand attitudes and attitude toward the advertisement. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(1), 12–24.
Mitchell, A. A., & Olson, J. C. (1981). Are product attribute beliefs the only mediator of advertising effects on brand attitude? Journal of Marketing Research, 18(3), 318–332.
Moorthy, S., Ratchford, B. T., & Talukdar, D. (1997). Consumer information search revisited: Theory and empirical analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 23(4), 263–277.
Morgenson, G. (1992). Is your product your advocate? Forbes., 150(6), 468–474.
Moriarty, S. E. (1996). Abduction: A theory of visual interpretation. Communication Theory, 6, 167–187.
Neter, J., Wasserman, W., & Kutner, M. H. (1985). Applied linear statistical models (2nd ed.). Burr Ridge: Richard D. Irwin.
Nordhielm, C. L. (2002). The influence of level of processing on advertising repetition effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(3), 371–382.
Oppenheimer, D. M., Meyvis, T., & Davidenko, N. (2009). Instructional manipulation checks: Detecting satisficing to increase statistical power. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 867–872.
Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and verbal processes. Oxford: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Paivio, A., & Csapo, K. (1971). Short-term sequential memory for pictures and words. Psychonomic Science, 24(2), 50–51.
Park, C. W., MacInnis, D. J., Priester, J., Eisingerich, A. B., & Iacobucci, D. (2010). Brand attachment and brand attitude strength: Conceptual and empirical differentiation of two critical brand equity drivers. Journal of Marketing, 74, 1–17.
Park, C. W., Eisingerich, A. B., Pol, G., & Park, J. W. (2013). The role of brand logos in firm performance. Journal of Business Research, 66(2), 180–187.
Rajaram, S., & Geraci, L. (2000). Conceptual fluency selectively influences knowing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26(4), 1070–1074.
Ranjan, K. R., & Read, S. (2016). Value co-creation: Concept and measurement. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(3), 290–315.
Reber, R., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Effects of perceptual fluency on judgments of truth. Consciousness and Cognition, 8(3), 338–342.
Reber, R., Winkielman, P., & Schwarz, N. (1998). Effects of perceptual fluency on affective judgments. Psychological Science, 9(1), 45–48.
Rosen, D. L., & Olshavsky, R. W. (1987). A protocol analysis of brand choice strategies involving recommendations. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(3), 440–444.
Schnotz, W. (2002). Commentary: Towards an integrated view of learning from text and visual displays. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 101–120.
Schwarz, N. (2004). Metacognitive experiences in consumer judgement and decision making. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14(4), 332–348.
Scott, L. M. (1994). The bridge from text to mind: Adapting reader-response theory to consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(3), 461–480.
Shapiro, S. (1999). When an ad's influence is beyond our conscious control: Perceptual and conceptual fluency effects caused by incidental ad exposure. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(1), 16–36.
Shapiro, S. A., & Nielsen, J. H. (2013). What the blind eye sees: Incidental change detection as a source of perceptual fluency. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(6), 1202–1218.
Siegel, L. B. (1989). Planning for a long-life logo. Marketing Communications, 14(March), 44–49.
Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (2018). Facts and Data on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Retrieved March 30, 2020 from https://sbecouncil.org/about-us/facts-and-data.
Spencer, S. J., Zanna, M. P., & Fong, G. T. (2005). Establishing a causal chain: Why experiments are often more effective than mediational analyses in examining psychological processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 845–851.
Spiller, S. A., Fitzsimons, G. J., Lynch Jr., J. G., & McClelland, G. H. (2013). Spotlights, floodlights, and the magic number zero: Simple effects tests in moderated regression. Journal of Marketing Research, 50(2), 277–288.
Stampler, L. (2012). Here’s how much money the world’s biggest brands spend designing their logos. http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-much-money-the-worlds-biggest-brands-spent-designing-their-logos-2012-8.
Strong, E. K. (1925). The psychology of selling and advertising. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Sujan, M. (1985). Consumer knowledge: Effects on evaluation strategies mediating consumer judgments. Journal of Consumer Research, 12(1), 31–46.
Sundar, A., & Noseworthy, T. J. (2014). Place the logo high or low? Using conceptual metaphors of power in packaging design. Journal of Marketing, 78(5), 138–151.
Swaminathan, S., & Weintrop, J. (1991). The information content of earnings, revenues, and expenses. Journal of Accounting Research, 29(2), 418–427.
Townsend, C., & Kahn, B. E. (2014). The “visual preference heuristic”: The influence of visual versus verbal depiction on assortment processing, perceived variety, and choice overload. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(5), 993–1015.
Van Osselaer, S. M., & Janiszewski, C. (2001). Two ways of learning brand associations. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(2), 202–223.
Walsh, M. F., Winterich, K. P., & Mittal, V. (2010). Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand? The role of brand commitment. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 19(2), 76–84.
Whittlesea, B. W. (1993). Illusions of familiarity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19(6), 1235–1253.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Stephanie Noble served as Area Editor for this article.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Brand familiarity
- Brand image
- Brand logos
- Image and text stimuli
- Logo design