There’s always been a bit of confusion about choosing which NFC logo or NFC icon. So let’s help clear things up.
The Official NFC Forum Logo
Well, technically, there isn’t one. Unlike Bluetooth, which is a much more controlled environment, ‘NFC enabled’ products can be placed on the market without complying to any specific branding or marking format.
There is however an established and very active governing body for NFC called the NFC Forum. The role of the NFC Forum is to help create the standards by which NFC devices can interact and promote the industry in general. The NFC Forum is funded by paying members which include many of the major players in the NFC industry such as NXP, Broadcom, Google, Sony, Visa, Samsung, etc.
The NFC Forum created their own logo for use with NFC enabled devices or products. These products need to meet the standards set out by the Forum but the use of the logo is reasonably unregulated.
This is the current NFC Forum logo, called the ‘N-Mark’ :
So that should make a simple decision then. You create your marketing item, product or whatever and apply the logo. However, it’s not that simple and there’s a few reasons why.
The EMVCo Contactless Logo
In addition to the NFC Forum logo, there is also the Contactless Indicator logo from EMVCo. This is a very common mark that is typically used to indicate the ability to make contactless payments rather than perhaps interaction with an NFC tag.
EMVCo state that the mark can only be used in association with products and services conforming to standard NFC protocols such as ISO 14443 (most common NFC tags). This is understandable as, like the NFC Forum, to keep and build user trust in the mark, it must represent a reliable service. However, it’s important to note that this logo is a trademark of EMVCo and it’s use in non-payment based situations requires the prior review and approval of EMVCo. In short, if you are planning a smaller NFC project, then this may not be the logo for you.
The NFC Forum Logo Coffee Factor
Let’s be clear, very few people ‘in the street’ would recognise the NFC Forum logo. In fact, in a survey carried out by the now-closed NFC Tag provider RapidNFC in 2015, 0 out of 50 people asked randomly in London correctly identified it as an ‘NFC’ logo. Worryingly, 22 of these people thought it was the Nespresso coffee logo.
It’s understandable why that might be the case. There’s every possibility that this will change over time as the NFC Forum logo becomes more widespread. However, this will require the widespread use and adoption of the official NFC Forum logo rather than it’s variants including the EMVCo mark.
The NFC Forum NFC Logo Trademark Factor
Part of the reason many companies are not keen on using the NFC Forum logo is due to the requirement to use the N-Mark with either the TM or the ®. It’s a requirement to include this when the logo is printed larger than 5mm, which, in product packaging it could well be. Packaging designers (or any designers) don’t like these things.
However, there’s also the requirement that the following statement be included on all product packaging, marketing literature, etc.. ‘The N-Mark is a trademark or registered trademark of NFC Forum, Inc. in the United States and in other countries.’. Watch the graphic designer’s face when you tell them that. The statement is not always required. For example, when the N-Mark is used on a an electronic device it would be difficult to include the text.
Essentially, anything you like. Most NFC tag vendors, Apps and so on have adopted their own logos. Many of the current designs are based around or are variants of the original RapidNFC NFC logo designed by Phil Coote.
The designs typically have a wave effect with either just three curves or with a variant on the N. According to Phil Coote, RapidNFC originally designed an alternative NFC logo for three reasons. Firstly because many customers were concerned about the restrictions on the use of the official NFC Forum logo. Secondly, because of the confusion with the Nespresso logo and thirdly because the original NFC Forum logo didn’t have the letters NFC combined with it. Much of the research undertaken at the time and indeed since indicates that the addition of the NFC letters along with a logo has a (fairly obviously) substantial effect on awareness of use. This RapidNFC variant has now been widely used, partly due to the fact that while it was trademarked (with and without the letters), it was free to use with little restriction.
Recently, and partly because of the feedback raised from the original logo, regarding the lack of awareness, the NFC Forum modified the logo to include the letters ‘NFC’. The latest N-Mark logo therefore can be used either with or with the NFC letters.
While the newer logo takes up more space, there’s little question that it will increase awareness substantially.
Most seasoned industry commentators and indeed most branding experts will agree that the industry needs to use a single logo. The NFC Forum’s logo is therefore the most sensible and powerful choice. It’s not perfect by any means and the coffee factor will be difficult to get away from.
The NFC Forum could do more to help particularly with regards usage restrictions. However, the restrictions on use are there to help protect the icon and NFC ‘brand’ itself. With relatively limited resources this is something that isn’t easy.
If the NFC industry wants to build outside payments then created a clear brand such as that of Bluetooth is essential. And right now and for the foreseeable future, the N-Mark is the right choice.