Logos vs. Branding
Let’s get the main point out straight away. Getting a logo is not the same thing as developing a brand. I wish it were that easy. For years, I’ve been explaining this concept to potential clients who, for one reason or another, decided that their company needed a facelift.
In simplest terms, a logo is the face your “brand” wears. But, like people, you don’t just wear a face. You wear clothes, jewelry, shoes. Combine all that with the way you carry yourself, the words you choose, the emotions you show, the car you drive, the way you greet people, answer the phone, whether you are late or early for appointments, and if you remember to send a card on friend’s birthday—THAT is your “brand.”
It’s over-simplification, but it gets the idea across.
It’s a rare small company that wants to create a brand the “right” way. Most will go part way, maybe get Polo shirts for the employees, standardize the way the phone is answered, put together a comprehensive logo guide. But that’s rare, too. To create a brand, a company has to LIVE it’s philosophy and let the philosophy seep into all aspects of the business. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not as easy as slapping a logo onto everything and calling it a brand.
Back when I was in a corporate marketing position, I learned about KLM airline’s “thousand points of contact” theory. They figured out all the places their company touched consumers, from websites to ticketing staff to maintenance people to the waiting rooms in airports. All of those spots was a marketing opportunity. All of those “thousand points of contact” had to be assessed and addressed to maximize how the company spoke to the marketplace.
On the surface, it seems like an obvious way to do business. In practice, it isn’t easy to “live the brand.” I’ve found with clients—even the most committed ones—that they will do it briefly then begin to make exceptions for, say, bus people in the restaurant, then for the bartender, then even the new wait staff will not be trained to live the brand. The exceptions become the rule, and no amount of logos stitched onto Polos will help.
What is a brand, then?
So, the “brand” isn’t the logo. Nevertheless, I encourage clients to look at their faces first. The logo is an easy starting point, both operationally and in terms of understanding. A logo is a readily understood symbol for a company. When I show a client a Disney logo and ask what it makes them think of, they invariably list characteristics that are not inherent to the loopy letters in the company name. Terms like quality, service, creativity, commitment to excellence, all come to mind. None of that is in the logo. ALL of that is in the way Disney does business, the philosophy it espouses in its parks and movies, and all that is encapsulated in the Disney brand. Nevertheless, the logo is, by default and by design, the face of that brand.
Is it wrong to start with the logo?
Not really. For our parent company, BackBurner Marketing, it’s sometimes the only way to get in to get the client thinking the right way. More clients come to us looking for a logo and go away with brand consulting on some level, which makes their business better and makes them more successful—if they stick with it. We try to give them the tools, walk them through the process as full-on participants in the development of who and what the company is. In the end, we hope they stick with the transformation we’ve started. In the best case, it’s a wholesale improvement in all aspects of the company. In the worst case, well, at least they have a really nice logo to stick on everything.