An interesting study conducted by British Neuro-Scientist Dr Gemma Calvert has found that a brand's logo, whilst eliciting responses in test subjects, actually affects potential consumers far less than more subtle, subliminally stimulating imagery.
The research subjects were shown subliminal images that had no overt connection to cigarette brands - a red Ferrari, a cowboy on horseback, a camel in the desert. Next, they were shown explicit images such as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel, the Marlboro and Camel logos, and branded packs of cigarettes.
In both cases, MRI scans were used to look for activity in the nucleus accumbens - the area in our brain that controls cravings, with the aim to determine whether subliminal images would generate cravings similar to those generated by the logos and the clearly marked Marlboro and Camel packs. There was a similar response among former smokers, but no response among people who had never smoked before.
The results showed that even though both explicit and implicit images elicited some form of craving response in test subjects, the subliminal images not only generated more activity in the reward and craving center amongst test subjects than when they viewed the overt images. In other words, the logo-free images associated with cigarettes triggered more cravings among smokers than the logos themselves or the images of cigarette packs, a result that was consistent for both Camel and Marlboro smokers.
The research concluded that brand components engage the consumer in figuring out who's behind the message and, most importantly, speak to the subconscious mind. For example, one won't find a logo on the front of an iPod, yet its iconic look is enough for you to know what brand it is, whilst BMW's signature kidney grill is distinct enough to represent the entire brand.