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McDonald’s is the more successful company by a mile, and its golden arches are recognizable from blocks away. But at according to a new paper published in the Journal of Marketing Research, Burger King has a better logo.
Why? Because Burger King's logo is descriptive. It literally puts a hamburger on its sign along with the word “burger.”
According to the research, people respond more positively—meaning they consider brands more authentic and worthy of their money—when they have descriptive logos rather than abstract, “non-descriptive” ones like the McDonald’s arches, or even the Nike swoosh.
In one study, the authors designed a fictional mountain gear brand and a fictional sushi restaurant. Each fake brand was given two different logos: one descriptive and one abstract.
For instance, the mountain gear brand’s descriptive logo had an image of a mountain on it, and the sushi restaurant featured a sushi roll.
In the abstract versions, these shapes were changed to a black triangle for the mountain and a black cylinder for the sushi.
The nondescriptive, geometric versions sound so modern, with enticing, flat design! They must be the better way to go, right?
In fact, subjects preferred the companies with the more literal, or descriptive, pictures. They rated them more likable and authentic.
There are cases, the researchers found, where descriptive logos are the wrong way to go—namely, if consumers don’t like your product.
In other words, if someone is buying palm oil—or perhaps bug repellent, or a funeral home service, as the authors write—keep dead bodies and bugs away from your logo, even if that is your business.
Finally, the researchers speculate that brands with a broad reach of services, like Uber or Procter & Gamble, probably benefit from more abstract symbols that don’t pin them down to a single product offering. It makes sense.
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