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Clients Guide To Brand Identity vs. Logo

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Whenever we hear someone use the terms “brand” and “logo” interchangeably, we shudder politely, doing our best not to be noticed. 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 identity requires time, self-knowledge and consumer participation. 

Clients that are interested in modifying their brand identity should prepare themselves for the possibility that altering their logo might not be enough; sometimes we find the answers in a board room whereas other times ideation occurs by allowing staff to play hacky sack in the front lobby. It is the creative strategy process that develops a testable hypothesis about what levers we should pull that positively impact a brands identity.

What is a brand?

Simply put, a brand is what distinguishes one company from its competition. There are a multitude of factors that go into creating a brand, and these are not 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 knows what they are going to get.)

Creating a Brand Personality

Going beyond a corporate identity, companies have found it increasingly profitable within the past few years to create a brand strategy that consumers find interesting on a personal level. For example, the online shoe retailer Zappos created a brand image that went beyond the traditional corporate goal of maintaining a reputation for high-quality products and excellent service.

The Zappos brand conjured an image of whimsy, humor and fun-not only regarding the products that they sell and the services they provide. Zappos furthered this image by integrating it into 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, there are other understandings. He or she knows the clothes are bright, flashy, and that their favorite Hip-Hop artists appreciate the style.

Therefore, that consumer will forever associate that sportswear company with urban funkiness. Hence, the brand identity solidifies.

What is a logo?

A logo is the signature of the company brand-the banner, stamp or design, allowing the consumer to visually identify the issuer of the product. The logo does not delineate the company name in actual lettering; it can be purely symbolic.

A brand must fuse everything a company says, does, produces and stands for into a fairly easily digestible identifier. For that reason, we cannot take the construction of a brand logo design lightly. The ideal logo represents 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 design, actual rebranding takes more time. Sometimes logo alteration isn’t enough to achieve it. 

Why Change a Company Logo?

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. Sometimes a design change is warranted, but it is better to work towards a timeless logo design that extends its lifespan.

If you look at Apple’s original logo in the mid seventies, you would never guess what it would eventually become (it looked like a… well, it is indescribable, total mess). Apple corrected this design disaster and has since held tight to their new logo design for decades.

Whatever design firm you use for your logo, be sure that the designers familiarize themselves with your existing brand design; 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 they have embraced your company by the 55-65-year-old consumer set, you may be in for a disappointment.

When Brand Identity Matters

Brand identity is important for companies at any stage, but brands pursuing line extension require strong brand identity to ensure that brand recall occurs. There are many examples of failed products because their entry into a new category lacked a visual identity that matched their more known product.

Brands miss the mark when they try to match a product to a market. It is almost as if their brand is suffering from split personality syndrome with different messages speaking at different volumes. Identity confusion is a toxic problem in small businesses, but is common in enterprise organizations.

Instead, these companies can build upon existing brand identity by looking for differentiating factors and unique selling propositions that sit beside their existing brand voice. Whether it is in the graphic design or sales copy, each product needs to build upon the foundation set from the first entry into the market.

Brand Essence: Whether you work with any agency or use your internal team, make sure several people understand the meaning and how to test for brand identity design. It is through this process that you understand how to match your identity with the right feelings for effective brand essence.

Brand Colors

Determine the colors that work best with your brand and can continue to live on all future products. Determine this through simulated buying experiences so that you are not subjecting your products to personnel for the final decision. 

Brand Typography

Find a consistent font theme that you can use as a visual reference that they understand your brand for. Brand typography is the midpoint between verbal and nonverbal drivers. Your words matter, but so does the size and font style.

Brand Tone

What communication style best fits your message and resonates with your target audience? Shouting to a customer who doesn’t like loud noises is the wrong approach. Determine the correct brand tone for your brand identity.

Maintaining Elements During a Brand Refresh

Creating a brand refresh appears to be an opportunity to start new, but is more an opportunity to see what matters. During a refresh, it is important to hold tight to the elements the consumer understands to be a part of your brand identity. The way to do this right is to remove all subjectivity from the testing process and watch as potential customers make their decisions.

Be a fly on the wall, only there to observe if you want to understand what elements are a part of a positive brand image. There are plenty of examples of where design changes go wrong.

Whether through brand recognition, an emotional response, or another trigger, these elements help build brand awareness to a new audience and encourage brand loyalty to an existing one. However, it happens, a company’s identity is a crucial element of how a successful brand can stand the test of time.

Social Brand Identity

Whether it is through social media or in the real world, there is brand identity that is not a part of your direct marketing campaign. In the early days of chipotle, their message spread much further than any visual brand identity could take them. Fast, healthy, delicious was a triad that made consumers return several times per week.

The social brand identity changed when Chipotle experienced a series of food-borne illnesses because of their supply chain. While Chipotle has done a good job of remediating this issue, a fresh approach to their brand identity is required to head in this upward direction.

Building Brand Identity With Package Design

This article speaks to any organization but needs to be heard loud and clear by CPG companies. Consumer packaged goods cannot as quickly track their brand identity since the products live on shelves. Since being on-shelf is your best opportunity to market your product, pre-market brand identity testing ensures you communicate a brand image that hits home with the right audience.

Go without testing and your logo and packaging may be an identity mismatch that confuses shoppers, leading them to choose another CPG product.

Package design that’s proven to perform.

Want a best-selling brand? Whether you are a new company or are looking to rebrand your product line, the team at SmashBrand specializes in helping CPG companies succeed. We use strategy, experience, intelligence, and research to ensure that your product becomes a top performer. Book a time to discuss your project with our team.

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