Does Your Logo Have Power to Motivate? It Will if It is Credibility Based

Your company name and logo is your brand. Without credibility, neither will enhance your business. Find out from a pro what constitutes a credibility-based logo, and whether or not yours measures up.

Credibility-based logos stem from the teachings of design legend, Saul Bass, who is famous for his successful logos for AT&T, United Airlines, United Way, Rockwell International, Alcoa, and Continental Airlines (during the period 1968 to 1989). I was Bass’ logo design planner and logo account manager during the 60’s. Using credibility-based principles, I planned the logo content and Bass did his masterpieces which followed.

During the late 70’s, I did a study which substantiated my master of arts thesis, and Bass’ teachings, which hypothesized that if a company logo is credibility-based it would be more effective in supporting the company’s various messages such as sales. It would, thereby, help achieve company goals.

I compared company logos which were credible with company logos which were just likeable. Being likeable is only part of being credible and will give logos only minimum power. There had been many interpersonal communication studies which demonstrated that if a person is considered credible, he or she would be more influential. For example, a computer wiz would be more influential on what mouse or software program to buy than, say, a chef. But a chef, on the other hand, would be more influential when it comes to the best curry to buy and where, or the latest cookbook. In other words, you wouldn’t go to the computer wiz for food suggestions, and you wouldn’t go the chef for electronic product suggestions (well, in most cases). My study was the first to determine if credibility also worked in company-to-people communication.

How does credibility influence? Credibility means “expert,” “trustworthy” and in more recent studies, “forward thinking/forward looking.” A person high in these dimensions will be more influential. Likewise, a company high in these dimensions will be more influential. The company logo is the heart of the company’s credibility.

My research (in conjunction with the marketing department head at the University of Hawaii at the time) demonstrated conclusively that credibility-based logos were more persuasive. The credible logos in the study were more highly influential in achieving company goals than were the likeable logos. The study became the core of my thesis. It ultimately became the premise of my best-selling logo book, The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos (John Wiley Publishers, New York, 1997). Of course, the “power” is “credibility.”

How does a company logo portray “credibility”? The first thing to do is symbolize the company business. This says the company is an “expert” in this business, like the shoe repair shop with a sign hanging on the store front with a “boot” or “shoe” symbol together with the text “Joe’s Shoe Repair.” Make the symbol a modern or contemporary looking “boot” or “shoe” and Joe is almost there. Make it look “trustworthy,” by including traits that define the descriptive nature of the shoe repair shop such as “experienced,” “professional,” and “friendly” and Joe has a power logo. It is credibility-based and will be effective in bringing in business, while Joe repairs customer shoes.

Joe’s company name is “Joe’s Shoe Repair” which is also credibility-based. “Shoe Repair” says Joe is an expert in this business. “Joe” giving his name to the business says he is “trustworthy” and stands behind his work. Further, “Joe” is the shortened version of Joseph which is “forward thinking/forward looking.” Well, that may be a bit of a stretch but you get what I mean.

Compare your present logo with the three dimensions which make up a credibility-based logo. Does it first symbolize your company business? Is it contemporary in design like AT&T, IBM or United Way? Is it how you want your audiences to know you such as “solid,” “highly technological,” “folksy,” “cutting edge,” “friendly,” “old-fashioned” (yes, a company can look “old-fashioned” and still convey “forward-thinking” — Michelob Beer for example). There are hundreds of “trustworthy” attributes in my book which you can match to define your company on this dimension.

Your company name and logo is your brand. Like Coca-cola, it has equity value. If it is credibility-based, it will have even more value as it will help you achieve company goals. Can your business card or letterhead be without a credibility-based logo? You may even be giving the wrong message.

William L. Haig is the author of The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos. He has a MA degree with honors in Marketing Communication and has worked in the graphic design/marketing field for over 40 years. He presently manages the marketing, public relations and graphic design functions for a major transportation company. He can be reached via email at, or visit his web site at

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