A brand is not a logo. Almost anyone involved in brand strategy will tell you that, and there are countless articles and blog posts reminding everyone that a true brand is so much more. There are different definitions to explain exactly what a brand is (a story, a tapestry, an impression in the mind, a personality, a position, an expectation, …), but we’re all clear it’s not just a logo.
Yet for all the insisting that a brand is not a logo, a brand without a logo—a brand without a recognized identity system—is lonely. And lonely isn’t good; it’s awkward and unhealthy. Brand strategy needs an inspired identity for support.
Once upon a time your brand was just an idea; a passionate story you shared with others in order to achieve your goal. It was probably a fairly complex idea. Yes, you made sure the strategy was anchored by a clear and simple vision, but your story contained a lot of nuance and detail that needed to be shared to be understood. It was a lot of information to take in all at one time, and when you shared your idea, people only heard a small part of the passion—a small part of the strategy—depending on what was told. Sure, people liked you, but no one fully understood your idea yet. The strategy was complex yet shy; you kind of blended in with everyone else.
As compelling as your brand strategy was to you, you discovered it was difficult to share the complexity with every stakeholder every time. And without people to share the vision, your brand strategy was lonely. You knew there was a quick way to share all the ideas and passion—something to connect every little experience to the mission—but the logo scene is filled with distractions; logos that think they are more important than the strategy.
In desperation you had hooked the strategy up with logos before (it was probably something your cousin recommended). You accepted clip art and sketches; a scribbled word and some bright colours. Some were nice, but it was obvious none of them ever really clicked. Cheap icons and your important strategy didn’t feel right together; they didn’t complete each other. And everyone knew it—something wasn’t right.
You wanted more for your strategy. It deserved more.
Soon the identity is more exciting than the strategy. It gets all the attention and affection. With all the fresh excitement, you become concerned that the strategy will get lazy and stop trying—stop striving for greater purpose—and everything you’ve worked for will fall apart. After all, the other logos only cared about their looks.
Something about this one, though, tells you this is different. True love is taking root.
This time it’s so much more than just a slick graphic that tags along for fun or tries to steal the spotlight. This time, logo is really a whole identity system that understands you and the ideas you need to share—the story you need people to believe. This identity brings out the best in your ideas, your strategy, and the people who share your passion. In fact, this identity becomes so valuable to the strategy they seem inseparable.
This logo isn’t shy or confusing, and that is what makes it popular. The vivacious identity system advances your strategy, pushing you out of the shadow of generic competition. You learn that in order for people—every one of your stakeholders—to get a chance to understand your culture and vision, you need the identity.
Now you’ve married a rich and vibrant identity with your strategy. Together, they capture people’s imagination, celebrate the culture of the organization, introduce stakeholder to your authentic story, and inspire pride in those who align with your brand. The two thrive together. The logo becomes a shortcut to understanding your ideas; supporting the strategy and demanding attention.
Your brand hasn’t been the same since this inspired logo came along. And you wouldn’t have it any other way. You know a purposeful, inspired identity is essential to a valuable brand strategy.
The brand and the logo aren’t the same thing, but they need each other. As long as the pairing is true love—authentic, strategic, shared love—the brand and the logo will live together, happily ever after.
(Watch for the continuing adventures of Brand and Logo as they discover new opportunities in messaging, culture and the power of loyalty.)