Whenever we hear someone use the terms “brand” and “logo” interchangeably, we shudder politely and imperceptibly. It is easy enough for a company to change its logo (well, not that easy… we’ll get into that later), but changing the brand is something that requires time, self-knowledge and consumer participation. Clients that are interested in modifying their business’ identity should prepare themselves for the possibility that altering their logo might not be enough; sometimes it requires allowing staff to play hacky sack in the front lobby.
What is a brand?
Simply put, a brand is what distinguishes one company from its competition. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of factors that go into creating a brand, and not all of these are necessarily under the company’s control.
A brand is an all-encompassing personal image. It fuses company personality, philosophy, culture and aesthetic into one convenient and consumer-accessible identity. However, branding is not merely a corporate phenomenon; celebrities also embrace the concept of a “brand.” (Anyone who watches a television show involving a Kardashian pretty much knows what they are going to get.)
Companies have found it increasingly profitable within the past few years to create a kind of brand that certain types of consumers find interesting on a personal level. For example, the online shoe retailer Zappos has created a brand that goes beyond the traditional corporate goal of maintaining a reputation for high quality products and excellent service. The Zappos brand conjures an image of whimsy, humor and fun—not only with regard to the products that they sell and the services they provide, but also involving their company culture. Their business model has created a shift in the traditional corporate belief system; it might actually be possible to provide outstanding customer service while simultaneously waving a freak flag and ringing a cowbell.
What a company’s products and/or services mean to the public is at the core of every brand. Even though the consumer might not know exactly how their favorite sportswear company treats its employees, he or she does know that the clothes are bright, flashy, and are appreciated by their favorite Hip-Hop artists, and therefore that consumer will forever associate that sportswear company with urban funkiness. Hence, the brand identity begins to solidify.
What is a logo?
A logo is the signature of the company brand—the banner, stamp or design that allows the consumer to visually identify the issuer of the product. The logo does not necessarily delineate the company name in actual lettering; it can be purely symbolic.
Because a brand must fuse everything a company says, does, produces and stands for into a fairly easily digestible identifier, the construction and design of a brand logo is something that cannot be taken lightly. The ideal logo should be able to represent a company’s characteristics in an evocative, but not literal, manner.
Although the concept of “re-branding” is often used to describe a modification of the logo, actual rebranding takes quite a bit of time, and sometimes logo alteration isn’t enough to achieve it. If a company wants to overhaul its character, it not only must change its logo, but also, possibly, its name, identity, market, price structure and even products and packaging.
Logos can, and do change, and they can change instantly. Companies update and alter their logos all the time to keep up with changing cultural phenomena or evolving company philosophies. If you look at Apple’s original logo in the mid seventies, you would never guess in a million years what it would eventually become (it looked like a… well, it is indescribable, total mess).
Whatever design firm you ultimately use for your logo, just be sure that the designers familiarize themselves with your brand in a real way; meaning that they make themselves aware of your true, nitty-gritty public perception and not just what you want your brand to be. If you are desperate to be hip and edgy but your company has been embraced by the 55-65-year old consumer set, you may be in for a disappointment.