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Why your business card is no longer in your wallet.

September 21st, 2011  |  Published in Brand, Inbound Marketing, Social Media  |  7 Comments

Your logo replaced by search resultsMy how things have changed.

I can remember a time when it was really important to have a cool business card with a custom logo that attempted to embody the qualities of a brand while differentiating it from competitors. Yet, as businesses of all size have flocked to crowdsourcing web sites to have their logos created in a structured “contest”, the value of this previously essential business graphic has been recalibrated by the market. And in the eyes of the market, a logo’s value is now about $99.

In an expensive place to do business like the San Francisco Bay area, that equates to less than ONE hour of billable time. And in many cases, this is less than what many marketers pay for their monthly internet, text and voice mail on their smart phones.

The new value: no longer in your wallet.

Interestingly, this is not just another case of digital devaluation. It codifies the fundamental shift that has taken place for what’s important for a brand. Today, a more contemporary measurement of what delivers value to a brand is its total presence on the internet. This includes not just the web but all of the social, local and mobile channels of choice being used every second by prospects everywhere.

In essence, the value of what used to be a foundation component in marketing communications, the logo on a business card—and even the business card—has been displaced by the more valued “results” that are delivered by a search on the web.

What’s of note here is that appearing in the preferred top position of a search results list when someone is looking for the value that a brand offers takes significantly more investment, expertise, resources and time than creating a groovy logo or unique business card. Connecting all of the dots to ensure that a brand is taking advantage of and utilizing every opportunity to raise or sustain a top search results position is nothing less than a formidable task.

What’s more, any belief that a creative silver bullet, a marketing panacea or a well funded communications campaign will achieve or sustain a top search results position is simply folly in today’s rapidly changing marketing environment.

Graphic effects of change.

As brand strategy expert Greg Satell noted in a recent post, “We are, in a sense, in a post-promotional age, where core values need to be infused throughout the organization and not just trumpeted in promotional materials.” Or through inconsequential graphics.

Whether it’s local or global or both, the value of a logo has clearly receded. And the market has measured the contribution that this graphic commodity now provides for increasing the true value of a brand. Because business understands that if prospects searching for what a brand has to offer now have the opportunity to start a conversation, virtually anywhere, so that prospects can investigate their solutions and compare and contrast them with competitors, they improve the opportunity to convert that prospect in to a customer.

In this economically challenged environment, it’s difficult to see how or where a logo can make a difference in improving a brands search results ranking or adding any measurable impact on what business truly cares about—new customers, increased revenue and building sustained relationships.

Beautiful logo? Or top search results position?

Would you trade a high cost, graphically beautiful logo for a top search results ranking or your own community of engaged and interacting prospects and customers? Please share your thoughts.

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  • Mario Ocon

    I have to agree with you that  logos and business cards have been completely devaluated. In my opinion, that sentiment pertains more to “us creatives” and not to the those buying those services. However, a logo is still one of the fundamental building blocks of a brand. The Cokes, eBays, and Apples of the world still hold true to this. They know better than to pay $99 for a shit logo.  Having a well put together presentation is still important to a brand. It’s not the kind of thing that people acknowledge on a conscious level but it’s still important. Regardless if we are talking about a store-front, a business card in a wallet, or a web site,  a logo is  always the first thing  people see. A beautiful logo vs  search results? If I had to pick, I’d take the search results. But why settle for one when you can have both.

  • Paul Pruneau

    Thank Mario for your considered comments.
    I agree with you that it would be better to have both: a well designed logo AND great search results ranking. But if no one is willing to provide realistic compensation for the effort, skills and experience to develop a well designed logo and the now preferred path to provide it to a customer is having to participate in a “contest”, it appears that virtually all of the value of this once important graphic has been removed.

    It mirrors what took place in the music industry with the ascension and adoption of sharing digital music. All of the monetary value of the music was stripped away. It’s unfortunate but I think it’s worse to pretend that things will ever return to the ways of the past.

  • Perrin

    Hey Paul, good points.  Although, I think I manage to have a good internet presence AND a cool business card and logo.  In fact, my brand is indistinguishable from my web presence, though arguably I should be on twitter, too.  However, at the moment there’s only so much I can do between designing jewelry, cutting out the components, assembling them and marketing the finished products!  Just had twelve designs chosen by SF’s Museum of Craft and Folk Art, so something out there is working for me.   As I like to say, “validation, it’s not just for parking garage tickets anymore!”  Hope you’re doing well and keep up the blogging…

  • Paul Pruneau

    Hi Perrin

    Congratulations on your design success and inclusion into SF Craft Museum!
    And thanks for your comments on the post.
    Yes, I think the preference for many is to have a nice logo but it’s very tough to equate it to business value today.
    A continually measurable web presence is my preference.

  • Logogogo

    The only people who can be blamed for creating a race to the bottom in logo design and having completely devaluated and almost destroyed that part of the industry, is designers themselves. The overpopulation of mediocre designers who kept giving in to the crowdsourcing contests without thinking of the long term of their profession, are to blame for their own demise.

  • Paul Pruneau

    Yes, I do believe that you’ve got it right.

  • Cindy Lee

    Yo Paul,
    As a creative, I always enjoy a great logo and a cool business card! However, I agree with you in that the logo has been devalued to $99 or less. But, the big companies understand what goes into a logo and will spend high dollars on a brand. A brand is more than just a logo these days, it is a living, breathing organism that changes 24/7. Its the companies persona, voice, image and yes the internet. Which makes building a brand that much harder these days to relate to all the different levels of audiences. So, that brings me back to the logo and the business card—I believe as long as your audience ( or people you want to connect to) are “plugged in” you no longer need a business card. With that said…I am a sales person, and will still carry my card in my wallet. Paper will never let you down, but the internet and phone connections can. I say have both. It can’t hurt.

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Paul Pruneau, and Teamworks Communications, Inc., develop communications and brand strategy, engineer content to express customer value, and create integrated online and Content Marketing solutions to help businesses succeed. Follow Paul on Twitter, connect on Google+, send an email or just call 415.789.5830.

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