Few businesses would dispute the importance of branding, but too often, they think the work begins and ends with developing a logo. As a creative director with a background in design, I love a good logo; it provides an identity for your company and distinguishes you from your competitors. A well-designed logo is an instantly recognizable symbol of your company; most people can immediately visualize the logos associated with top brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks, to name just a few. They are ubiquitous around the world; you don’t need to speak the language if you’re craving a Big Mac in a foreign country—just look for the golden arches! But it’s important to note that a brand is more than a logo.
Logo vs. Brand
Your logo is your symbol. Think of it as an avatar, a visual representation of a concept or idea. Yes, it plays a supporting role in establishing your brand identity, but to call it your brand is shortsighted. A brand is far more encompassing: it’s your entire company—your strategy, your calls-to-action, your voice. It is your employees and facilities, your customer service and communication tools. A brand is your logo and visuals, even though your logo and visuals are not your brand. If you’re scratching your head right now and thinking, wait a minute…, I get it. On the surface this might sound contradictory, but allow me to explain.
An eye-catching logo is visually appealing, but a brand engages your emotions. It’s your company personality—how people feel when they interact with your business. It represents your core values, your beliefs and strategies. Key elements of your brand include:
- Brand identity. This is how you want your brand to be perceived—your mission and vision.
- Brand image. Your reputation; how you are currently perceived by consumers.
- Brand character. Your company’s integrity, trustworthiness, and honesty.
- Brand culture. The values your business champions.
- Brand personality. This is the human side of your business and includes gender, age, socioeconomic class, and more.
Are you beginning to understand why your logo is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your brand?
Which is More Important?
While both are important, your brand matters more than your logo. Over the course of my career, I have seen some really poor logos attached to excellent brands. One example that comes immediately to mind is Verizon. As the nation’s largest wireless communications provider, Verizon’s core values center on reliability, simplicity, and dedication to customers. But up until 2015, its logo was just awful: italicized font, a big red “V” (was this supposed to be a check mark?), a drawn-out “Z” and obnoxious gradients. Despite widespread public disdain for the logo, people still loved their products and services. Strong branding helped them achieve that #1 ranking despite a bad logo.
Ultimately, your logo and brand should complement one another. Just keep in mind that they are separate entities; logos are easy to design (or redesign), but it’s much tougher to build and maintain a strong company reputation.