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 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 Coffee Factor
Firstly, very few people ‘in the street’ would recognise that 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.
The Trademark Factor
This is partly 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.
Most of the designs center on some kind of ‘waves’ effect. Many of these logos have been used either because of the restrictions on the use of the NFC Forum logo, the lack of awareness of the ‘official’ logo or because of the lack of identity.
One of the factors to help with the identity is the use on many of the ‘unofficial’ logos of the NFC letters. To that end, recently, the NFC Forum released an updated version of the N-Mark logo with the 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.