Everybody has an idea in their head of what branding is. If nothing else, everybody knows what a ‘brand’ is: Coca Cola, Nike and Dyson spring to mind. Our ideas of what it is to have a brand has been shaped by vast multinationals. This has given many of us the impression that it is associated with fame and global success and therefore irrelevant to small and medium sized businesses.
To dispel this notion, and to explain and help you understand what a brand is, and how relevant branding can be to enterprises of all shapes and sizes, we’ve decided to put together this mini-series called Branding Beyond. Once a month, we’ll be publishing general insights into the branding world, and show how these insights apply to your own business.
My logo is my brand – right??
The first instalment of Branding Beyond is a little myth busting exercise. Unfortunately we don’t have bearded television scientists who can blow things up for us, so a blog post will have to do. Nonetheless, we’re launching straight into one of the biggest myths around Branding: ‘My logo is my brand.’
We come across this notion all the time, particularly when dealing with small and micro businesses. After all, your logo is the most visible part of your business identity, so it makes sense, right? Well, yes and no. While visual appearance plays a key role in displaying identity, it is important to understand that visual appearance and identity are not the same thing. One is an expression of the other. Think about it this way. The way you dress is an expression of who you are inside, but it is not your whole identity. Our sense of identity stems from our place in the world, in our environment, and from our relationships with other people. And this is exactly what brands are: an expression of our identity in relation to our environment.
This little diagram illustrates perfectly what we in the industry mean by ‘brand’. And it doesn’t even mention a logo, or say ‘how you look’ on the left hand side. But it’s all good – your logo, the clothes you choose to put on your business persona, are part of what you do and say about your business.
Logos are like Lighthouses
Like all good design, a logo works well if it is not just aesthetically pleasing, but functional. What that function is may vary from business to business, but in principle your logo is responsible for (visual) recognisability [recognisability can come from more places than purely visual aspects, as we’ll be discussing next month]: it is the lighthouse for your brand, drawing attention and providing a landmark.
Let’s look at the lighthouse analogy for a second. A lighthouse is a striking feature in the landscape while at the same time being a product of necessity. It’s not a folly, a frivolous piece of architecture just for the sake of pleasure. It sits on solid foundations and knows (as far as lighthouses can know these things) its place and purpose in the world.
The purpose and foundations are what concern us here. Without purpose the lighthouse would be a waste of money and resources. On the other hand, without foundations, if it was floating on a raft in the ocean, it might still look pretty but would lose all purpose and functionality. Your logo is much the same.
Strategic Design – the Logo as part of your brand
For your logo to do its job as part of your brand, it has to have a purpose and solid foundations. The foundations are a clearly defined brand essence: the background, mission, uniqueness and personality of a brand, combined with its particular vibe, bringing together an idea of how the brand feels. The purpose of your logo is to connect to your chosen customer base in a way that resonates with them. A logo for a business selling organic baby food will look very different to one providing financial services.
When it is informed by decisions based on brand essence and logo purpose, design becomes strategic. We can then tailor and design your logo to represent your brand in the best possible way. This is the start of creating an image which strongly resonates with your customers. After all, a brand is only as strong as the love shown to it by its customers!
Brands are for everyone
Whether you’re a part time self-employed individual or a business employing hundreds of people, it is now widely understood that to look competent in the professional world, you have to have a decent logo. What we have illustrated with this article today is that logos don’t appear from thin air, and that they need to be informed by solid decisions BEFORE they can be designed if they are to be good. You can be a tiny brand, or a vast multinational. The principles of identity, personality and customer perception apply just the same. Crafting those well gives you a great basis for a good-looking futureproof logo that represents your business.
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