logos and brands

This is a repost of a contribution I made to a discussion on Open Coffee that I thought worth posting here.

“I’ve been watching the discussion for a bit so here’s my 2p worth… (forgive me if I stray into egg sucking 101 at any point)

A logo is not a brand. People (especially those in business) who look at a logo and call it a brand are misinformed at best.

A logo is part of a brand.
A logo is a visual association, a shorthand if you like to the core of the brand.
I’m going to define brand as a product or a service + experiences, promised, aspirations and emotions connected with it.

A logo identifies, clarifies and defines the product or service it rests on from competitors, partners or similar entities. It creates the quick and handy connection between the viewer and the brand. A visual mnemonic if you like.

I’ve worked with brands that have appalling logos, yet are strong brands. And with brands that have stunning logos, but worthless offerings. When the product and the aesthetic combine then you usually have a formula for success.

Most companies will try to define the brand for themselves, they will try to work out what they stand for, what they want to accomplish and how. Often this isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes they’re way to close to is and need an external view to give them that focus. Or the reality of their offering/positioning and their beliefs are out of synch and need realigning. The logo is the visual expression of this brand DNA.

You can’t control a brand, certainly not from within the company. You can influence it yes, steer it and encourage it but ultimately its your stakeholders that will determine it. For a developed brand stakeholders are not only its customers (as most people start out thinking) but also employees, suppliers, partners, the media, peers, government both national and local, competitors – anyone who touches up against the brand in any shape or form. They’ll form an opinion about you and your company and that’s what they’ll associate with your logo, take out into the world and share with others.

This opinion can be formed by how you answer the phone, how you dress when you present, your jokes, your press releases, customer service, if you pay your bills on time, your maternity policy, your charity work, your fidelity of delivery, your smile, the quality of product, the quality of service, your honesty, your buildings – what ever you do it all affects your brand. All of these things should reflect your core ‘values’ or brand proposition, principles if you like – that brand DNA acts as a filter for any activity.

Brand and logo go hand in hand. We’re visual processing people, so we tend to encapsulate and invest in a visual marque quicker than anything else. People have invested in other senses (think pentium/intel tone-burst) but primarily its visually that we look to for confirmation and clarity.

Ironically in a recession its marketing and brand that gets cut, which is the primary way of differentiating yourself from your competitors, or positioning yourself as something different/new.

If you get your brand right at the start then great. And yes that can include the logo.
The Nike brand swoosh hasn’t fundamentally changed since it’s inception. Did Nike succeed because of this device, no. Does Nike now continue to flourish because of it, yes. Time, experience and marketing have allowed us to invest certain values and emotions in that device, so that when we experience it we have an expectation. If Nike had behaved badly both in quality of product and service then our associations would no doubt be very different.

Brands aren’t fixed in time and space, think of the transitions of car manufacturers (Skoda), banks (Santander), energy (BP) and food (McDonalds), they’ve all tried to change their business models and invested massive amounts of energy and money in communicating this to us – trying to take a new position then providing us with both persuasive marketing and demonstrable evidence in order to change our brand connection. (I’ll let you decide which ones have been successful).

Brands are fluid, alive and require constant tendering and nurture. For some multi-nationals they’re the most valuable things that they have, and the goodwill intrinsic to them appears in black and white on their balance sheet each year. Some times an takeover is all about brand and not about product or real estate.

It’s not an either or proposition. You can have a great logo, identity, etc. and a great product/service with a killer business plan, projections, cash-flow, legals etc. They are all as important as each other. Brand/design should be up there with premises, hosting, accountants and contracts if not higher (OK so I’m slightly biased there) it’s a fundamental part of your business. There’s no point having a great product if no one has heard of it, you can’t differentiate it from others and you don’t have a mechanism for growth or communication. Likewise what’s the point in having an elegantly tooled logo if your product sucks, your customer service hates people and your financials are so full of holes you have a lifespan of about fortnight.

Yes there is a place for crowdsourcing or automated systems and their ilk. Its quick and cheap. Will it give you an identity that’s unique and 100% represents and understands you, probably not. If you can find a designer with real branding knowledge – and that means that they really take the time to get you and your business and aren’t just artisans then hang onto them with both hands. Partner with them and they can help you take your business places not only in the short term but beyond. On cost, negotiate to begin with, but understand that this can be a fundamental part of your business and deserves proper investment at the appropriate time. Only you can decide when that is.

This has turned out longer than I expected. So please put it down to all the techy stuff that I know to stay out of! I don’t think we’re miles apart of this issue, probably agreeing more than anything else.”

Scroll to Top