I thought it would be nice to kick off this podcast by taking a closer look at what a brand is. So in this episode I would like to tackle a common misconception that I come across quite a lot; that a logo = a brand.
Newsflash: it doesn’t
A lot of business owners, especially when just starting out, feel like once they have their logo sorted, that’s it. They’re good. They have a brand now. I’ve been approached several times by people who “just need a logo” and who cannot grasp why that would cost more than a couple of hundred € – admittedly that happens less often these days, after I positioned myself as a brand strategist, but the odd inquiry still comes through.
And now I’m going to tell you what I tell them, so that you can avoid that trap 😉
By the end of this episode, hopefully you’ll have a clearer understanding of the difference between
- A brand
- Brand Identity or corporate identity
- Visual Identity
Let’s reverse this and start with your logo. The logo is just one of the components that make up your visual brand identity. Your brand’s visual identity consists of several elements that all work together within a set of cohesive and recognisable brand identity guidelines. A logo is one part of this system.
As much as your visual identity does play a key role in the process of creating a strong and memorable brand, it is not your brand.
To dig a little deeper into what a brand is, we need to look at what makes someone choose your product or service over that of your competitors. What is it that triggers someone to willingly pay more for a certain branded product than they’d pay for a practically “identical” product from a different brand? What makes someone “click” with your brand enough to be drawn to it and choose you over probably thousands of other options available to them?
Feelings. A brand is about feelings.
Your brand is basically made up of emotions in the mind of the consumer – it’s the combined impression of all the times and places where they have encountered your brand.
So yeah. A pretty logo on its own just isn’t gonna cut it. Because you need to connect with your audience on a much deeper level. To do that you first need to truly understand the vision and values that define your brand. Then you need to tell that story, using carefully crafted visuals, words and actions that resonate with your dream clients.
Sure, I can design a pretty logo for someone. I could probably make them a pretty logo within an hour too. Heck, even half an hour. But it would be meaningless, you know? It would just be a generic logo with no substance behind it, or as I like to call it: fluff.
I could even pad out the logo with a gorgeous colour palette. And fancy fonts. But what good would that do if there isn’t a purpose behind those design choices other than “it looks pretty”? Actually, don’t answer that. It’s no good, that’s what it is. And it’s still not a brand!
You know what I tell the people who come to me for “just a logo”? I tell them to forget about the logo. The logo isn’t important. (Bet you never saw that coming from an identity designer, eh?)
I don’t mean they should never get a logo. That’s not the point at all, and the logo does have a role and a place in all of this. I just mean that until they have a solid foundation to base that logo, and the rest of their visual branding, on – they shouldn’t bother. No, really.
I tell them to go away and do all the “invisible” work first, and when they’re really clear on their brand strategy, then they can go get that logo. Until then, just pick a neutral font for your brand name, and leave it at that.
Why would I say that? Surely that would be leaving money on the table, right? Maybe. But I don’t want to take someone’s money just for the sake of it.
Well, spending time and money on creating a logo without an underlying strategy is like building a house without foundations. And really, there are so many other things that are crucial to building a strong brand that need to be in place before you even begin to think about the visuals. And I get that it’s tempting to jump ahead to the logo and the colours and the fonts and all the fun stuff. The tangible stuff that you can actually see.
But your brand is really more about what you can’t see. Confused yet?
Ok. Let’s do a cheesy metaphor, because, I mean, who doesn’t like a cheesy metaphor?!
Imagine your brand as a house. On a day to day basis people generally don’t see the structural part of a house, the foundations and the stud walls and all the stuff that actually holds the building up. But if those things weren’t there, or if the studs were rotten, you’d be kinda screwed, right? The same is true for your brand.
The structural part, that’s your brand strategy. Things like your values, your mission, your target audience, your why (and these are all things we’ll dig deeper into in later episodes). These are the things you don’t see, but that are an integral part of your brand. Without walls, no house. Without strategy, no brand.
So you have the foundations, the walls and a roof. It’s a house, but it’s not quite there yet, it’s just an empty shell with no personality. So you start injecting some of you into the house. Maybe you paint some walls, add furniture, houseplants – because you want people to see your personality in the decor when they come to visit. You want them to feel at home and welcome. That’s your visual identity right there.
But in a row of houses that all look kinda the same on the outside, you want your front door to stand out, so you paint it a showstopping colour. That’s kind of your logo.
Brand: How people perceive your company. This is not something you can ever be 100% in control of, because it’s made up of people’s feelings and perceptions based on their experience with your brand.
Branding: The stuff you do, real actions that you take, to influence people’s opinion or perception of your brand. The actions you take to build a certain image of your company.
Brand identity/corporate identity: A collection of tangible brand elements that come together to create one brand image. Your visual brand identity certainly belongs here, in this section – but it’s still just one part of the overall brand identity. You also have other aspects such as company culture, tone of voice, brand story. But for now, I want to focus on the visual identity. So within your visual identity you would typically have things like
- Brand colours
- Brand illustrations
- Marketing collateral, like brochures and flyers, and stationery
Basically, anything visual that represents the business. Which of course also includes your logo.
Logo: So as you can see, your logo is just one part of your visual identity. It’s there to identify, not to explain. A logo should identify your business in its simplest form, using a mark or an icon that people can instantly recognise as you. It doesn’t have to tell your entire brand story or literally describe what your business does – in order to do that it would need to be really complex. And a really complex logo does not do what it is meant to do; which is to be instantly recognisable and memorable.
Think of it as your profile pic on Facebook for instance – no one can tell everything about you just from looking at that image alone, but when they see it pop up in their feed they’ll most likely instantly know it’s you!
So how can we apply this to your brand? Well, it kind of depends where you’re at.
Have a little think, take a look at your business and brand as it stands right now. Have you put any thought into the foundations of your brand, or do you literally just have a logo? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
If all you have is your logo, definitely go away and have a think about your strategic foundations. Do some of the invisible work. Then look at your logo and ask yourself if it represents your brand in an accurate way. Your next step from there could then be to start defining your brand’s visual identity by establishing a brand colour palette and choosing brand fonts that reflect what you want your brand to stand for – and then to be vigilant about using these elements consistently.
Once you’re at a stage where you’re consistent with your basic visual elements, and you’re confident that they communicate your brand’s essence, you could take it to the next level by incorporating more of your brand story, finding your tone of voice, finding ways to make your brand personality shine through in everything that you do – and you can do this in increments. You don’t have to do it all at once and get totally overwhelmed.
But it does all start with strategy. So wherever you are on your branding journey, if you haven’t done any of the inner work, maybe you’ve been putting it off because you’re not sure where to start…. Just start! What you’ll see is that it doesn’t have to be complicated – and that it will make a real difference in how you think about your brand and your business.
You’ll have a clear vision of who you are and what you stand for. It will be easier to communicate with your dream clients, because you know who they are and what you can help them with… and because you’re showing up consistently, those dream clients will start to recognise you and trust you (you’ve probably heard of the know, like and trust factor!) – and ultimately want to work with you! Woohoo!
The good news is, you don’t have to start with a blank piece of paper and no clue of where to begin, because I’ve created the five step Brand it! Roadmap to help you build a strong and memorable brand, from the ground up.
The brand it! workbook (fillable PDF) takes you through the first four stages of the roadmap, and it guides you as you dive into the very core of your brand to get clear on your vision, your goals, your dream clients, your brand personality – all of the strategic things that I’ve talked about today. It’s also a document that you can come back to, again and again, to make tweaks and adjustments as our brand evolves.
You can grab the workbook here and start implementing it right away.
That’s it for this first episode. I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, any ratings and shares are much appreciated. See ya next time!