What’s the difference between a logo, identity, and brand? Are they synonymous terms? These words are often used among today’s entrepreneurs, designers, and even in corporate boardrooms, but much of the time they’re used incorrectly.
So are they the same? The simple answer is no, but they are related. In this article, we’ll dive into these known terms and define them in order to enhance our communication about them and learn how they can benefit business goals.
What is a logo?
In conversations with clients I’m frequently asked about the difference between a logo, identity, and brand. Since it helps to use examples, I share an illustration of a human being, and a logo being like the face of a person. A logo is an identifier, and many times the first thing a customer will come in contact with.
A logo helps people quickly distinguish one business from the thousands of others. It helps people to know who they are engaging with. Since all businesses are different a logo should express the sentiment or countenance of the business it represents, but most importantly, it should be easy to remember.
In a previous article we discussed 5 traits of lasting logos. The question here is much simpler. That is, in essence, what is a logo? It is a face. Of course, this makes a logo especially important.
What is an identity?
A person is not just a face, but has a body with certain mannerisms, and even a certain kind of style. Some people dress and carry themselves in a way that’s rough and tough. Others, in a refined and detailed manner. Yet still, there are those who are trendy and hip. You can tell a lot about someone by their mannerisms and style.
An identity conveys the mannerisms and style of a company. It includes colors, fonts, pattern design, iconography, photography, and other graphic styles that in turn become a strong and consistent “voice” used to produce stationery, websites, social media channels, signage, apparel, and marketing material. When a customer comes in contact with an identity, they get a sense of whether this company is the right choice for them.
An identity also helps to differentiate two similar companies. It’s possible that two businesses provide a similar offering, yet because one is concerned with social impact and the other solely with increasing revenue, they may visually present themselves differently. The identity helps customers choose the company they associate with most.
What is a brand?
So far we’ve seen that a logo is the face of a company, and an identity conveys the mannerism and style of a company, but being a human being is not just about outward looks and appearance. Every human being has a unique personality.
A brand personality can be conveyed by the logo, identity, voice and tone, messaging, and tag line, but in the end, it’s really left up to actual customer experiences that result in their perception of a company and connection to it.
When I was a young boy, during a family trip my family stopped at a certain side of the road diner chain. It just so happened that on this occasion something my brother ate left him sick to his stomach and running for the restroom. From then on whenever we would pass by one of their chains we’d squeal, “Eeewww!!” My brothers and I never visited again as kids. You can see here that even at a young age, a particular experience left an impression on us which affected our choice in engaging with the brand for years. Now imagine a person who receives bad customer service as they are trying to solve their problem, someone who gets offended at poorly considered advertising, or biased inclinations from a company—it affects people.
In a sense, a brand is merely an impression in the mind of a customer formed by their personal experiences with a company.
So, what’s the difference again?
Put simply, a logo is the face of a company, an identity conveys the mannerisms and style of a company, and a brand is the personality of a company. At the same time they all work together. A logo and identity remind customers of the experiences they’ve had and call up feelings they’ve developed while interacting with the company—this is the brand.
Imagine the scene, a busy parent with kids driving down a main street and above a line of trees, one of the kids spot the tip of a golden arch. The excitement ensues! It’s the logo they see, not a particular experience, but the logo stirs up within them all of the positive memories dunking their fries into milkshakes and being with the family. If it was a green arch there would not have been the same response. This shows how important a logo, identity, and brand are individually, yet how interrelated they are.
Often times new companies inquire about logo design. While this is important, it’s helpful to understand a logos place in the context of an identity and brand.
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