If you’re designing logos for online contests, I don’t know if there’s anything you can do, which is one of the many problems I have with them.
I’ve gotten to the point where I almost never design just a logo. It almost always involves a more comprehensive visual branding package, branding guidelines and, more often than not, a few projects on which I can implement the new brand.
With all this in mind, I have more than a few chances for extended conversations where I ask tons of questions about their business, their competitors, their customers, their future plans, their history, the problems they run into, etc. Within the context of this conversation I weave in the message that I need to know everything about their situation so that I can give them the best, most targeted, most appropriate work I can. And when it comes right down to it, if there’s one thing clients care most about is how all of this will accomplishing their business objectives.
Wdesign gave you some excellent advice about how to set the tone of the initial conversation to one about how visual branding isn’t just to make stuff look nice — there are real, practical considerations and strategies involved that most clients will appreciate knowing about. This needs to be approached in just the right way, though. It takes a bit of experience and diplomacy to get clients to arrive at the conclusion that their original idea wasn’t quite right for what they want to accomplish.
Often times, you can’t just come right out and tell them; sometimes you need to talk all around the issue a bit until they come to the right conclusions on their own because when they do that, it becomes their insight and their idea. And sometimes none of this works, in which case, you just do what they want and accept their payment.