The Competitive Logo Review

It’s a wonder that so many travel and destination brands within a competitive set use similar iconography in their logos. Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn all have a sun icon. The MGM Grand and Ritz Carlton logos both sport a beautiful lion.

Many cities utilize a rendering of their skyline. Golf course logos all too often incorporate complex illustrations or clip art of golf clubs. According to logodesign guru, a website where you can buy a logo starting at just $99:

“A golf course logo graphic should be very creative and must highlight the salient features of golf, like clubs, balls, etc.”

In other words — make it look like every other golf course.

A few years back, when we were rebranding Windham Mountain, we collected the marketing materials of 52 competitors, to better understand their competitive set and search for an opportunity to create meaningful differentiation. What we found was nothing short of cliché: 90% of the competition had a mountain in their logo. The mountain iconography ranged from the abstract to the literal, but in the end each of these resorts built an identity around what makes them similar, not what makes them different.

The folks at Windham learned from this exercise that mountain imagery in whatever form was something they needed to stay away from in order to stand out from the crowd. The place to draw inspiration for their identity was their unique brand positioning — that differentiating, relevant, deliverable and ownable mojo that makes Windham Mountain desirable to its customers.

There are actually a handful of ski resorts who have gone so far as to eliminate references to anything to do with skiing and snowboarding in their logos. The ones that have done this are attempting to communicate their brand essence, what’s makes them different. Now one might argue, for example, that a logo like Beaver Creek’s has nothing to do with skiing and therefore doesn’t communicate to skiers, especially if you had never heard of Beaver Creek before.

Beaver Creek’s logo is about luxury. Its monogram of interlocking ‘B’ and ‘C’ letterforms are reminiscent of Coco Channel’s C’s or Gucci’s G’s. The script typographic wordmark would more likely be found on a bottle of champagne.

While Beaver Creek's logo is effective at differentiating the resort, script type and monograms are not necessarily the best way to communicate luxury in all situations. In fact, scripts and monograms are actually pretty common in the broad category of luxury. However, Beaver Creek was the first to successfully and sustainably position themselves as a luxury ski resort and, as a result, they own it. No competitor can take this position away from them as long as they remain true to the promise.