Lots of companies are jumping in to the clean energy space, and all of them will need logos that tell their story and set them apart from the competition. If you're with one of these companies, you're no doubt thinking, "Is there really a difference between making a logo for a clean energy company and other types of companies?" The answer is a resounding YES. Here are 5 tips every clean energy start-up should know.
1. Don’t make people guess what you do. First, recognize that clean energy is a relatively new industry, at least as far as the American public is concerned. Everybody knows what gasoline is, but most people — whether they’re investors, the press, or the public — are not going to instantly understand your particular branch of clean energy unless you make it very, very clear. It starts with a descriptive company name, which your graphic elements and tagline can build from (see below on taglines).
For example, Winergy Power Holdings struggled for years to win a bid to build an offshore wind farm. Winergy had unique technology for building wind farms in deeper waters offshore, where visual impact would be less of an issue for coastal residents. Captains of Industry (full disclosure, that’s us) helped create a new name and logo for the company — Deepwater Wind. The name itself is far more descriptive of their technology. The logo, integrating waves and wind, helps convey the power of ocean wind. Soon after the rebranding, Deepwater Wind beat out a range of competitors in a bid for an offshore wind project in Rhode Island. The new brand was not the only reason they won, but it was a factor.
2. In an era of tight credit, you have to look solid and credible. The credit markets are in better shape today than early in 2009, but it’s still pretty rough out there. That means investors are being extra cautious about where they put their money. Your logo must convey a sense of solidity, trust, and credibility. Banks have always known this, and designed their brands accordingly.
Check out the logos for Bank of America and State Street. They look chiseled out of stone. Never mind that they got rocked by the financial crisis; just about everybody did. They both came out stronger than before, and are still solid. Also note that each logo is blue, similar in hue to the Deepwater Wind logo.
Color theory says that blue connotes financial stability. Green connotes freshness and environmental awareness, used effectively by Solar City. Note, however, that Solar City is an established company and not a startup, so they may have less of a need to look financially viable. Red connotes excitement and sexiness. You may be passionate about your technology, but it’s your customer’s perceptions that matter, so leave the red for other types of brands (or use it just as an accent color Mobil). Notice what color the red is surrounded by?
3. Since nobody owns the sun or wind, it’s extra important for your logo to convey why you are unique. What’s going to make your solar energy company look any different from others? Do you use better sun? Think long and hard about what makes your company truly unique before you ever approach a designer about making a logo, then make very sure that your uniqueness is captured.
Various font styles and weights each convey a personality. Adding unique graphic elements to the type treatment can augment your personality and help create an image that’s “you.”
4. Your logo will work harder if it’s connected with a tagline. Big companies that have been around forever and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on their marketing over years often don’t have taglines, for the simple reason that they don’t need them. But your company may be new. Take this opportunity to reinforce the name of your company and the graphic design of the logo with a tag that helps set you apart. Keep it short – less than 6 words or so.
For First Wind, a leading wind energy company, Captains of Industry created the line, “Clean Energy. Made Here.” The company name and tagline says what they do, while instilling pride in the fact that they are building energy independence. ”Made here” can mean America, or even my own town. And it does all this in 4 words.
5. It has to look good everywhere, from your website to the jacket worn by the turbine construction worker. This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of companies mess it up. They make a logo that looks nice on the web, but when it gets reproduced on a jersey it looks awful. Make sure your designer shows you how the logo will look on a cap, a shirt, or on the side of a truck. This is especially important for clean energy companies, like solar companies, who may have installers visiting neighborhoods.
6. Try this simple test when you’re going through the logo development process. Let’s say your designer has developed 3 possible logos and has boarded them up for your management to review. Show them the logos and ask yourself: “How does this make you feel, and what does it say about us?” If the answers you get back match what you’re trying to get across, that’s a good sign. But don’t make your selection right away. Sleep on it. When you return to work the next day, what logo stuck in your mind? Choose that one.
For more how-to’s, from logo and web design to video testimonial production, download this free e-book – Branding & Marketing for Renewable Energy Companies.
Ted Page is co-founder and Creative Director of Captains of Industry, a marketing agency and video production company with renewable energy expertise. Ted oversees the creative development of websites, logos, videos and interactive web marketing campaigns on a range of clean tech and renewable energy companies such as First Wind and Alteris Renewables. His non-fiction articles have been published in Boston Magazine and Marketingsherpa.com.