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by Dr. William L. Haig
CEO Powerlogos Design
Co-author, The Power of Logos: How to Create
Effective Company Logos,
NY: Wiley, 1997 (fifth printing.)

Credible Websites and Emeril Lagasse
March 2004

The Credibility Persuasion Relationship Between the Company Logo, Header Art and Home Page Design to the Web Site

Many of us can remember when there was a seamless relationship between a small business owner and his customers. The owner was the business. Many photos capture this relationship of a small business owner standing in or in front of the business, usually a store. The owner was trusted by his customers because they knew him.

With small businesses turning to the Internet for more business, it is necessary to preserve what is fundamental in this owner/business/customer relationship. The owner and his store, or the owner and his Web site must instill a oneness of values, products and customer service. It is called credibility. Remember, we are now spending our money with this owner on a screen we call the Internet.

How does the small business owner instill Web site credibility? There is a definite creative strategy to consider. As an example, how would Emeril Lagasse, the very popular cooking show host, create his own Web site?

    Premise. It is all about credibility.

Credibility can be explained by the incredible Emeril Lagasse image. Emeril is a highly credible guy. His cooking show is very popular. His Web site would use the same strategy.

How do we make Emeril’s Web site credible? Let’s break it down.

Emeril’s show and Emeril’s Web site two essential elements: (1) what the show and Web site is about – cooking with flair, and, (2) who – Emeril.

Emeril is the source. His cooking show with all the recipes is the message. His audience is the receiver of the message. Remember the classic source>message>receiver model of communication? Because Emeril is so credible, his audience better receives his message. Just look at their faces on TV.

Now hold this image of Emeril. Let’s go to Emeril’s home page on his Web site.

Where would Emeril be on the home page? He would be the source (from our communication model) expressed as the Emeril logo. His cooking topic, then, would be the message. Emeril’s logo and the message make up the home page. We land on the Web site, and we become the receiver. Our communication model source>message>receiver is working.

Something now is supposed to happen. Like buying something.

But wait. Perception principles tell us that we make judgments from just a few prominent elements, not all, on the home page. Our eyes will encode “who” and “what” by just a few visual cues. This is the logo, the header art and the overall “look” of the home page. These must be done very well and is the task of competent designers and communicators. Then we get into the text message if we feel the site is credible (Stanford Persuasion Technology Lab study, 2002.)

What have we covered so far? Emeril as the logo, and the cooking topic as the message are two separate images, treated differently as two separately created communication elements. The overall “look” of the home page is the environment for the logo and message and must be compatible for consistency. All must communicate quickly with a few visual cues to say this site is credible and is what we want if we are to continue.

How does all this work?


The Source is the Logo

Like Emeril, the source of the message must be considered credible. Credibility communication is the responsibility of the logo. The source has “expertise” attributes and “trustworthy” attributes. The designer symbolizes the source business. This says the source is an “expert” in this business. This is the content of the logo. The designer communicates what the company does. Just like we know what Emeril does.

The logo also has elements, which make it believable or “trustworthy.” Just like Emeril behaves. Each logo will have a different design motif, just like Emeril is different from Julia and the other cooking show hosts. The creative talent of the designer will capture this from the logo planning strategy.

    If the source is credible, we will continue.


The Message is the Product

The message is the product on the Web site home page. The message talks about the product. The product is the subject here, not the in product marketing, packaging design is strategically created to express the “inner goodness” as attributes of the product.

Like product packages, the message must be first communicated on the header art in visual form like package design. As such, the inner content of the product message is visually expressed.

For example, if Emeril is featuring Mexican food, a Mexican motif is usually there such as chilies and tortillas. If it is high-end Mexican food, silver and expensive Mexican artifacts are displayed. If it is a particular type of food such as chicken, then something chicken is displayed. Décor defines the mood of the food. The same with Creole food with Mardi Gras festivity. This is also called product “positioning,” but with creative flare to fully express that positioning.

It is the same with header art on the home page. We know what the product or service is from the header art. It’s subject and it’s unique character. Just like the classic Michelob beer bottle. Quality bottle shape, quality gold label with a red ribbon over the top of the bottle rather than around like most beer. Unique. It says, “This is a premium beer.”

For header art, the design strategy is like the Michelob beer bottle. Design the header art to communicate the qualities of the product, the message. Give it its unique attribute personality.

    If the product is what we want, we will continue.


The Message as an Attribute of Credibility

What we know about the message adds to the “expertise” and “trustworthy” factors of the source. This is how the feedback works. The message heightened by correct design attributes to communicate the essence of the product, reinforces the “expertise” and “trustworthy” attribute factors of the source (company). Done right, the message can actually add “expertise” dimensions to the source. For example, well made products like the Mercedes automobile will reflect back on the manufacturer. This adds to the Mercedes brand image as an “expert” and “trustworthy” maker of class cars, therefore more credible in this market.

The attributes in the logo and the attributes in the header art are two different things. They are two separate elements in the communication model. The source influences the message. The source cannot be the message at the same time. Nor can the message be the source at the same time. In perception, the source comes first, then the message.

But the character of message feeds back to source credibility. The character of the message/product adds to the “expertise” and “trustworthy” factors of source credibility.

    If the credibility is heightened by the product message, we will continue.


The Whole Home Page Environment

The logo and message on the home page is reinforced by total design environment. This is what we see first. Perception works by selecting a few initial visual cues from the Home Page to make “first impression” assumptions about the credibility of the Web site (Stanford Persuasion Technology Lab, 2002.) The design of the home page must be carefully created to be compatible with the credibility attribute objectives.

For example, Emeril’s home page would be fun and festive in design. Mercedes would be quality looking. IBM would be cutting-edge technology/contemporary looking.

    If the whole page gives us a few cues of credibility, we will continue.



The Web site effectiveness model is:

    Planning: Overall visual cues giving Web site credibility source credibility as the logo>Message visually conveying product attributes as the header art and overall site look>Reflects back on source credibility>Influences the visual and verbal messages selling the product>to the audience or buying consumer if the product is wanted = sale!

    Thus. If persuasion is to happen on the home page of a Web site, the company logo must be designed to communicate source credibility. The product message must be designed to visually communicate the essence of the product presented. Proper text must describe the product. Further, the visual/verbal message communicated has feedback on source credibility, adding to what we know about the source company. This influences the visual/verbal message again to produce a sale. All must be carefully planned, created and executed.

How does Emeril’s site compare with this credibility based creative philosophy? How does his logo and home page message stand up? Let’s take a look, www.emerils.com. Okay what have we here?

The home page message graphics are good, but not in character of the food presented. Emeril’s logo needs help. It must have the “expertise” factor of “cooking” or “chef” within the symbol. It is not very credible. The site is not working effectively.

On my credibility scale from one to ten, the logo would receive a five and the home page message receives a six.

© William L. Haig, Ph.D. or Bill Haig, Ph.D. 2006

This is an original work of the author. All rights reserved. Copyright registration will be applied for. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, and recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.

© 2007 Powerlogos Design. All rights reserved. 'Powerlogos Design', 'Credibility Based Logo Design', 'Logo Implementation Guidelines' and Logo Planning Report' are registered 
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