Your Brand is Not Your Logo
...or a color scheme, a website, a t-shirt, a slogan, or even a name for that matter. While all these examples may be components of a brand, not even you are the brand all by yourself.
Misunderstanding the terms “brand” and “branding” is common. Probably because so many of the companies that focus their marketing on those words are actually graphic design studios with a taste for logos and business cards. What’s the difference between branding and graphic design? Enough to fill books (I’ve included notable inspirations to this article at the end). But to keep this readable, let’s first shed the misconception that branding is just a marketing buzzword thrown around by logo designers.
What about branding, the cowboy way?
Pretend we’re cowboys for the moment and all of a sudden branding becomes the process of marking our cattle. Not just of the hot-iron nature, it’s the term used even with alternative methods (particularly those less fire-born in nature). It’s a visual mark identifying something, usually ownership. But the moment we find ourselves back from our pasture-imagined experience, that’s not the kind of branding we’re talking about.
And while logo design is very much a part of the branding process, a logo is as much a brand as a wheel is a wagon or a horse is a stampede; It’s an integral gear in the system but doesn’t operate alone. To dig further, let’s shed the idea that a brand is a type of visual at all.
If a brand is not a logo or a visual, then what is it?
Simply put, a brand is a feeling. And that’s not some kind of nuance cliché, it’s the truth: according to the industry experts, a brand is how people feel about something collectively. Therefore people might choose to purchase Nike over Reebok or to shop at Target over Wal-Mart. While the swoosh or red circle-dot logos help you unmistakably identify those brands, branding itself is the feeling responsible for the loyalty and appreciation felt by their community.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a fresh logo or impressive visual identity design, but true brand design is accomplished through complete experiences, experiences that touch far more than just our optic nerves. Through the aid of visual identity, messaging, and systematic approach, brand strategists design meaningful experiences that leave their target audiences and communities feeling connected and loyal.
So, what does branding have to do with marketing?
Like logo design, marketing is a gear in the branding process. Efforts are monitored and utilized by brand strategists to maintain messaging and connection between a brand and the audience. The difference between a brand strategist and a marketer, however, comes down to goals.
A marketer’s goal is to spread awareness about something so their primary concern is reach. A brand strategist’s goal, however, is to collaborate and design meaningful experiences so their primary concern is reception. How many people see it versus how many people feel it. And if they don’t feel it, what do we have to do to make that connection? Could it be the issue is not a lack of reach at all, but an overall lack of reception that’s holding us back?
I think I get it...
Truly understanding the terms confirms: if you really want to develop a meaningful brand (and it’s loyal community), you’ll need to discover and define that brand first. You’ve learned that designing a brand strategy is something that can’t be accomplished with a “beautiful logo” or a “solid marketing plan” alone. People become Team iPhone or Chipotle lovers by design, not luck. Not just visual design but brand design. Their customer loyalty, even through dismay, is not an accident.
I want to know more…
Me too. I’ve been involved in the design world for many years now, but only over the last few years did I find my way to brand strategy. The concepts and ideas presented in this article are the ideas from the books of professionals I follow and have been recommended. I’ve simply translated their concepts as best as I understand them, in a way I hope some others can also digest. Here are, in my opinion, the most notable of those books.
The heaviest brand education I received came from Marty Nuemeier's The Brand Gap and Zag. The information was explained in further detail by Chris Do and The Futur on YouTube. And, finally, two books that laid foundation and contributed to the same perspective include The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott and Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet.