Arguably, one of the most important elements of a brand is its avatar or logo. This image is the most recognizable part of the brand; it appears on the product, its packaging, media advertisements, and possibly your storefront. Building an avatar is a task and a half, and the process involves many steps.

Step 1) Decide what message the avatar should stand for.

Is the avatar merely a way to distinguish your product from your competition, or should it represent a part of your brand story as well? Mitsubishi, for example, used its name to create its avatar. “Mitsu” is “three” in Japanese, and “bishi” (or “hishi”) is “diamond” in the same language. Knowing this makes the three diamond logo of Mitsubishi make far more sense.

Step 2) What will the avatar be used for?

Your avatar could be just a stamp on the product packaging, or the overall representative of your corporation. The Starbucks logo is used on cups, packages of coffee, napkins, and storefronts. The logo, however, cannot be applied to products because the company is a third-party distributor. Always keep in mind the end-use of your avatar – don’t design a product stamp if you can’t actually place the image on your product!

Step 3) Determine what the avatar will look like.

I call this one step, but it is really an in-depth research and creation process. The style of your avatar needs to match your company and brand – keep in mind that some styles may be inappropriate for your industry. The color scheme of your avatar also needs to be carefully researched. If you call your accounting company “Number 9,” don’t print the nine in red – red numbers can be a bad omen.

Furthermore, understand where your avatar will be seen. A popular image in one country may be an offensive taboo in another. Keep your customers in mind and design appropriately.

Step 4) Test the market reaction to your avatar.

Like everything in marketing, you need to test the reaction before you throw more money behind it. A failed avatar is a sunk cost – don’t invest more money trying to bail it out. Go back to step one and try again. Any avatar that is not immediately embraced by the market is likely to fail – yes, you might be able to convince people to like the image, but how long will coerced loyalty last?

Building a successful avatar is hard work. For example, I went through four iterations before finally settling on the question mark above. Once you have the avatar you are searching for, though, you can move on to more important work; like selling your products.

How successful is your company’s avatar? How many images did you go through before settling on the one you use today?