Logo, Brand Identity, Brand: What Is Branding?

February 21, 2013 | Branding, Design Basics

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase: Your logo is not your brand. This is repeated often enough that I have to guess there are people out there, who think a logo is a brand.

On the other end of the spectrum there are people arguing that a brand is so much more than a logo, that a logo is inconsequential. So I wanted to show how I define, understand and use the terms logo and brand, as well as some other related key words.

Logo, brand and brand identity terms

What is a logo?

A logo is the graphic symbol that represents a person, company or organization. If the logo is well-known enough, such as the Nike swoosh, you may even see a logo used without the name of the business that it is associated with. Normally, most marks have a typographic part that more clearly spells out the name of the organization.

What is a wordmark or logotype?

A logo can also be purely typographic. It is called a logotype or wordmark when only the letters of the name make up to the logo (there is no additional symbol). A great example is Coca-Cola’s red scripty type. Some people also refer to the logomark as the word portion of a logo that also has a symbol.

Sometimes the graphic symbol and typographic word mark are very separate (see the logo for Retail Association of Maine). With other logo designs, there is not a clear separation of logo symbol from typography, (see the Maine Auto Service logo).


Branding IQ

What is a brand identity?

Once a logo has been designed it gets applied to many different applications. These can be as simple as the logo placed in the top center of a piece of paper and calling it letterhead. If all you do is essentially rubber-stamp your logo onto different things, you really have not developed a full brand identity.

A brand identity is the larger, distinct visual look that is associated with a company. Read here about 8 Essential Elements to a Comprehensive Brand Identity. That is a brief overview of the elements that can be put together to make your brand’s identity more robust than just a logo.

When a brand identity really works, you should be able to recognize the brand even if you don’t see the logo. For example, Netflix’s red envelope is a simple yet powerful example of a brand identity.

Many people have heard about the importance of using their logo consistently. But there should be a consistency to elements beyond your logo.

The tricky thing is that while your logo is unfailingly unchangeable, your brand identity must have both consistency and flexibility. Creating a brand identity that is distinct yet varies based on it’s form, is a challenge but can bring big dividends in your brand’s value. The elements that can be part of a full brand identity could be fonts, colors, imagery, and even the voice of the writing.

What is a brand?

What is included under the term brand is much harder to define. It certainly encompasses the logo and the full visual position created by a strong brand identity. But it also includes many other areas that are not strictly the design side of a business. These may include your content, messaging and story telling. Customer service and the client experience also a part of a brand. The idea of reputation is a critical part of defining the word brand. Some people summarize this into the very abstract idea of a promise.

You will also hear some people (including me) use the word brand almost interchangeably with company or organization. It can be a way to talk about product or service; individual or organization; company or non-profit without getting caught up in listing all those particulars. For example, people will say: “A great way to promote your brand is using social media.”

I like to think of a brand as a combination of how you define and promote yourself and how others define and view you. You never have complete control over your brand because it is not wholly generated internally.

What definitions do you like for the term brand?

 

 

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14 comments

  1. harish | February 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for giving great difference between Brand and Logo. In my point of view logo appear like very simple and more informative. Thanks for sharing great post..

  2. click here | June 17, 2013 at 6:57 am

    It is very informative post to know about the difference between logo and brands. A logo should be unique, meaningful, attractive and it should represent your business smoothly and effectively.

  3. James Smith | August 14, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Great explanation. A logo is never a brand but they always linked together. Furthermore, logo development will be the representation of a brand to have an effective and efficient way to grab the attention of the audience.

  4. Stephy Ponting | November 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I found this article both informative and educational, showing the proper difference between logos and brands. The logo is a symbolic representation of any service or organization, however, a brand can comprise a symbol as well as message or any other content to promote the services. By discovering this information, I can now hire the help I need for logo or branding, in an appropriate way as required, to promote my products in today’s competitive market effectively. Thanks for sharing this useful article.

  5. Bonne Marque | December 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    We’re currently doing a rebranding of our identity (website, logo refinements, stationery etc) and found these tips to be very helpful, thank you.

  6. Sheila | May 23, 2014 at 2:53 am

    Great post. I myself am always constantly trying to explain to people what a brand is and what a logo is. I love your ending point, and agree, that a brand is BOTH what the company says it is, and what the consumer thinks/says it is.

  7. preston | November 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I like how you explained the differences between logo, brand identity and brand with the help of Venn Diagram, makes everything easier to understand.

    There is a critical difference between three that you didn’t make clear.

    Logo: Just a symbolic representation of a brand
    Brand Identity: Visible elements of the brand, like color and packaging
    Brand: Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.

  8. Arjun | October 20, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Great! What i really liked about your blog is crucial information about brand, brand identity and logo. Thanks for sharing this post with us. http://www.brandharvest.net/services.htm

  9. Eric | November 26, 2015 at 5:13 am

    I often stumple upon the confusion between icon and logo design. While logos may use the same visual vocabulary as icons, let there be no doubt; Icons and Logos are two completely separate design disciplines requiring different tools and different mindsets.

  10. Wes Towers | February 18, 2016 at 4:33 am

    While I mostly agree, the semantics games “branding gurus” throw around frustrates me to no end. If a client calls a logo a brand, who cares. Understand what they mean and supply a great service. It’s pretty simple really… that’s why I’ve written an article myself in response to the “brand is not a logo” folks who keep banging on about this topic: http://www.omnificdesign.com.au/have-the-branding-gurus-got-it-wrong/ Enjoy…

  11. Emily Brackett | February 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    @Wes thanks for your comment. I agree that the “logo is not a brand” has some people so confused as to think the logo has no part of a brand identity. Drives me crazy.

  12. Fairus | March 31, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Great post! Most clients just want a design to be up without knowing the exact brand story behind it. We just did one branding design for out client.

  13. Simon Charwey | July 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Great insight.
    We can better understand the difference between “a logo” and “the Brand”, more appropriately, when we begin to glean insights into the relationship between the former and the latter. In other words, “”A LOGO” IDENTIFIES “THE BRAND”, by what it represents and the meanings it evokes; “PEOPLE (consumers/users)” DEFINE “THE BRAND”, by what they perceive it to be and the emotional connection or cue on their minds, and not the other way around.” — Simon Charwey (iDentifyBrands™)

    Hence, a logo does not define “the Brand”; the Brand is not “the logo”, but an emotional cue on people’s mind about a product or service. Is like saying, “Hey! I heard the bell rung, it’s breaktime”. The sound of the bell is the cue on the pupils’ mind that defines “the breaktime”; hence, the bell or the sound is not “the breaktime”.

    In earlier epoch of branding — by burning an identifying mark on livestocks with a branding hot iron — “the mark” (or the logo) on a cow is considered as “the Brand”, but not anymore, PLEASE.

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