Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

When a big brand like Google changes its logo, everyone notices.

For smaller brands, there's much less fanfare, but the implications are just as great.

A poorly conceived logo change could dilute your brand and disenfranchise your core audience, experts say.

"A logo redesign isn't something you should dive right into without deliberate planning," says Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders Inc., a presentation folder printing company in Keego Harbor, Michigan. "Changing your logo too often will just confuse audiences about who your company is."

Pick the right time. Change your company's logo when it no longer fits your brand, he says.

The best logos are designed to be timeless, but it's not uncommon for them to look dated after a few years. That can be especially true when a company's values and personality evolve over time, Gendelman says.

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Sometimes a change in offerings also prompts a logo update, says Anthony Savino, CEO of Benjamin Marc, a Lake Grove-based web design, logo design and marketing firm.

That's what happened to Savino's client, Longo's Landscaping & Masonry Inc. in St. James.

Reflect your offerings. The 34-year-old firm had its website and logo redesigned about a year ago, says co-owner Regina Longo, noting her son, Carmine, worked with Benjamin Marc on the redesign.

The firm has expanded beyond landscaping and maintenance into design and masonry and wanted its logo to reflect that, she says. The new logo says Longo's Landscaping & Masonry, with the subhead "Design. Construct. Maintain."

The company did an email blast announcing the new logo and website to customers, and changed it throughout its various touch points, including billing statements, stationery and trucks.

The new design "generated a lot of business and comments," Longo says.

Tell the "why". The bottom line is you can't just make a change in a vacuum. Let your customers know why you did it.

There needs to be a story behind it, says Andrew Bogucki, senior partner and creative director at Tenet Partners, a Manhattan-based brand innovation and marketing consultancy.

There will always be detractors who don't like the change, but you can lead the conversation if you have a strong story about why you made the change, he says.

"You have to lead with the story," Bogucki says. "You can't let people backfill the story for you."

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Little changes, big impact. When making a change, instead of demolishing your old logo completely and starting over, try making small improvements that emphasize the best features of your original branding, Gendelman says.

New logos that look absolutely nothing like the original don't typically do well, he says. Audiences tend to get confused (or even angry) if you give them something entirely unexpected, Gendelman says.

Try sticking with the same color palette as the old logo, particularly if it's already branded throughout the business, adds Savino, who has changed his own company logo twice in 10 years. Using a more modern font also "stands the test of time," he says.

A small company can test a new logo on its website and some promotional material to see what kind of reaction it generates, he says. "If you're not 100 percent sure on it, then doing it in increments can help."

Room to grow. Make sure whatever you choose isn't too limiting and has the ability to grow with you, Bogucki says. And make sure the design is visually friendly across multiple platforms, which is what Google did in its recent redesign, he notes.

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"Google was out there with a pretty good story as to why they did it," Bogucki says.