What do the following products have in common? Campbell’s soups, Old Spice After Shave, Johnson’s Baby Powder, Ray-Ban sunglasses and Coca Cola. Well, it turns out that a key part of their success and longevity could be down simply to the way they present their brand logos. More specifically, rather than being about the colour or size or distinctiveness of the logo itself, the crucial ingredient is probably just the particular font they use.
We’ve long known that fonts are crucial in marketing, of course, as in other areas of life. When I have a presentation to do or a lecture to give, I waste almost as much time choosing a font as I do looking for pointless images to include in my slides on Google (both good tactics for avoiding focusing on content, or course). When it comes to branding, though, the secret is to be less mechanical or futuristic or modern and, instead, to make your logo look as much like handwriting as possible. And new research by Roland Schroll and his colleagues suggests that there is a lot of latent power in them there fonts!
In an interesting series of studies, Schroll et al found that humanising the fonts used increases product appeal. And this doesn’t just apply to the logo itself, any packaging information – from product description to a listing of ingredients – will increase consumer satisfaction and emotional attachment to the product when presented in a pseudo-handwritten style. There is a slight caveat in that the effect is more powerful when consumers already have a degree of attachment to the product anyway and/or they tend to evaluate the product class generally in more emotional terms. Nonetheless, the results are very interesting because it also seems appears that the importance of the font, somewhat downplayed for many many years, is if anything gaining in its significant.
Why should that be the case? Well, Schroll et al believe this is because of the increasingly technological multi-media world we now live in and the tendency for many of the stimuli we encounter to appear impersonal and almost robotic. The more a font appears like handwriting, the more human the connection with the product feels – brand anthropomorphism, you might say. So, while some may feel the Coca Cola logo may appear a little old-fashioned compared to, say, the bolder modern lettering adorning Voss bottled water, the reality may well be that the font used on The Real Thing will enhance the brand even more in the years to come.
In the meantime, perhaps I should stop worrying about my fonts when preparing lecture slides in future… In fact, if this logic is transferable, I should flip back to using the overhead projector and just write my lectures on good old acetates!