You’re launching a true Texas brand and want all of your new customers to know how much you love your state. Can you use the Texas flag in your logo? Maybe the better question is: Should you use a state flag in your branding?
Read on to learn the potential pitfalls of incorporating state symbols in your branding and how you can show your state pride while cultivating brand recognition.
People love the Texas flag
When we relocated to Texas, it was impossible to miss the fact that Texans love their flag. And as a design firm, we get it. The Lone Star Flag is bold and simple—utterly timeless.
The current flag was adopted in 1839, yet it feels modern and minimal. It was even voted the second favorite flag in the U.S. or Canada. Add in the fact it’s the only American state flag to have served as the flag of a recognized independent country, and you’ve got a winning piece of Texan pride.
But Texans aren’t the only ones who love their flag. A cross-country roadtrip will reveal hundreds of businesses that incorporate state flags into their visuals. With so many people doing it, it must be okay—right? Not necessarily.
Using the flag in your brand
There are two big reasons you should pause before painting your logo with the Texas flag (or any state flag). First off, you won’t be able to trademark your logo. According to the experts at Johnston Business Law Group, “Trademark law specifically forbids the use of the United States flag, and the flag of any state, municipality, or locality, or the flags of foreign countries, as the basis of any trademark.”
Flags, state seals, and other official emblems exist to represent an entity and validate authenticity. In other words, sticking the flag on your business card could lead customers to believe the state endorses your business. Someone could even think you speak on behalf of the state.
But maybe you don’t care about gaining a trademark. Are you free to slap the flag on your business? Not quite. Think about the purpose of your logo. Your logo should be indisputably yours. It should trigger recognition in your audience in less than a second. A logo that strongly reflects a state flag, by definition, connects more with the state than with your business.
Adding a flag to your logo gives free advertising to the state at the cost of your own brand recognition.
Ways you can use the flag
You can trademark a logo that incorporates aspects of your state flag under certain conditions laid out by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
- The flag is substantially obscured by words or designs.
- The pattern of the flag is used to fill a number, a letter, or a design.
- The flag fills a non-flag shape.
- The colors have been changed, beyond black and white.
- A major feature of the design is missing or has been changed.
Check out the full guidelines from the USPTO to see examples. However, even in these cases, your trademark could be denied. More importantly, you will still struggle with brand recognition as explained above.
Think about your audience
Effective branding must be audience driven. That goes beyond your logo. Your company name, brand personality, brand voice, and visual identity need to focus on your audience—not your preferences and passions. Ask yourself: Does my audience need to connect my brand to a certain state?
If you’re opening a restaurant that serves Texas-style food in downtown Dallas, you’re speaking to a Texan audience. Your local market is likely saturated with authentic Texan restaurants. Instead of building your brand around your Texan-ness, think about what makes you stand out in the crowd.
Now, if you’re opening the same restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa, your Texan menu is your unique selling point. Your brand name and logo should reflect this.
Better ways to connect your brand to Texas
Let’s say you determine it is crucial for your audience to associate your business with Texas or another state. Is the flag your only option? Not at all! A quick brainstorm would yield many cultural, geographical, or architectural icons that reflect the state.
For Texas, your designer could incorporate stars, boots, cacti, bluebonnet flowers, desert buttes, live oak trees, the Alamo, or many other less cliche symbols. In Colorado, for example, avoid plastering the Colorado state “C” on your logo. Instead, think about mountains, columbines, or an earthy color palette.
Encourage your logo designer to get creative and stretch past the obvious to develop a visual identity that speaks to the heart of your business. If the flag was part of your vision as a Texas business owner, give your branding team permission to think outside the Lone Star box.
The results will better support brand recognition and cultivate a deeper connection with your audience.
Still have questions about using the Texas flag or other state symbols in your logo? Ask below in the comments.