How customers alter their perception of a business based on its logo shape

This article is based on research by María Galli

Your company logo is often the first thing potential customers see. People tend to make up their mind in a split second as to whether your company is trustworthy or not, so making a good first impression is crucial.

Esade Assistant Professor María Galli and her research colleagues at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and INSEAD have investigated how company logos can influence customer perceptions in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The research article Does your company have the right logo? How and why circular and angular logo shapes influence brand attribute judgments reveals a novel finding for marketing experts: The shape of a logo can affect the judgments people make about the attributes of a company or a product.

Times Square New York
Times Square, New York City, United States (Photo: Wojtek Witkowski/Unsplash)

What circular or angular logos say about your product

The researchers conducted five experiments in which participants were asked to evaluate products after seeing advertisements. For instance, people were shown an ad for a sofa featuring either a circular logo or an angular logo, and were then asked to report how they perceived it in terms of certain attributes.

"We found that the circular logo led to perceptions of higher comfortableness, while the angular logo led to perceptions of higher durability," says Galli.

But how did the differently-shaped logos lead to these perceptions of comfortableness and durability?

According to Galli, seeing a circular shape activates the concept of softness in our brain, and this alters our perception of the product's comfortableness. Similarly, seeing an angular shape activates the concept of hardness in our brain, altering our impression of the product's durability.

Seeing a circular shape activates the concept of softness in our brain

What logo shapes say about your firm's behaviour

The influence of logo shape even transcended the physical notions of softness and hardness. In one experiment, participants were shown the scenario of a passenger with overweight luggage trying to board a flight operated by an airline with either a circular or angular logo.

When asked if the passenger would be allowed on board without a penalty, participants judged it more likely when the airline had a circular logo.

They also thought the airline with the circular logo cared more about its customers and would more likely respond to their needs.

How can businesses benefit from these findings?

Knowing how customers react to circular vs. angular logo shapes gives businesses additional tools to shape perceptions of physical (e.g., comfortableness) and nonphysical (e.g., customer sensitivity) attributes, helping them achieve a better impact based on their needs.

"For instance, if you are selling sports shoes and want your customers to perceive them as more durable, an angular logo would be more effective, as the notion of hard that would be activated in your brain would unconsciously reinforce this sentiment," says Galli.

The authors warn that if consumers were aware of the unconscious associations triggered by the logo shapes, they could correct for the associated bias in their product perceptions. "However, most of the time our brains are too busy processing the countless stimuli we encounter every day, so the logo shape's influence on our perception is likely to remain outside our awareness."

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