Consumers are more likely to think of a brand as dynamic and youthful if it has an asymmetrical logo, and they associate brands with a symmetrical logo with less exciting qualities like sincerity and sophistication, new research shows.

A series of six studies involving between several hundred and over 10,000 consumers tested the long-established “golden rule” of design that people perceive symmetrical objects more favourably and that a symmetrical logo is therefore ideal. Of 423 major global brands, 95% have symmetrical logos.

Yet the research, published in the Harvard Business Review, showed managers of global brands might want to rethink whether the symmetry (or otherwise) of their current logo is the right match for the personality they are trying to project.

The researchers set out to test whether symmetry was always best in brand logos, and whether it might actually be harming some brands’ equity.

Consumers who were offered pairs of brand logos – one symmetrical and one asymmetrical for each brand – were much less likely to associate symmetrical brands with attributes such as being trendy, cool, youthful and imaginative, they found.

Another element of the study showed that for brands projecting an exciting personality – brands like Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Nike, and Tesla – having a symmetrical logo could have a detrimental effect. The brands were seen as less exciting than when they had an asymmetrical logo, and were less liked by participants when their logo was symmetrical.

Researchers also found that for brands that do not have an exciting personality, symmetrical logos had the effect of boosting consumer attitudes and, consequently, the brand’s financial valuation.

“Our findings suggest that brand managers and designers should keep brand personality in mind when (re)designing logos,” the researchers said.

“Brand managers and designers who are creating or modifying a logo should consider using an asymmetrical logo if the brand has an exciting personality. Conversely, when the brand does not have an exciting personality, using a symmetrical logo can be more favorable.

“Our findings suggest, for example, that the logo of Mountain Dew matches the brand’s exciting personality, while the logo of Shell matches the brand’s unexciting personality. However, MTV might be better off with a less symmetrical logo; Kleenex, which does not have a strong exciting personality, might be better off with a more symmetrical one.”

The research authors were Antonios Stamatogiannakis, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at IE Business School – IE University (Spain); Jonathan Luffarelli, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Montpellier Business School (France); and Haiyang Yang, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University (US).

Sourced from Harvard Business Review