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What is the difference between a logo and a brand?


A logo is just one of the elements of a brand and has a particular (and limited) job. A brand works for you on many different levels. It gives your customers the elements to remember you in many different ways; it's all about intensity and consistency. Assuming all these experiences are positive, they create a deep connection, build trust, and make them forget your competition. Creating a logo without putting effort into building your brand is basically gambling. You are hoping random strangers will like your logo. Some of those may be your potential customers, and a few will identify with your company. Instead, connecting with your audience is easy when you purposefully craft your brand. There is no guesswork and no waste of resources.

Has this happened to you? You start a business. Get a free logo and design some fancy business cards to go live, only to realize that there are tons of other decisions on colors, typography, visual style, tone, etc. You download some online templates and create them all. You give it your best effort. It takes forever, but in the end, everything looks disconnected, generic, and even messy. It is different from what you had in mind.

Is a Brand Just a Logo?

A brand is an experience, a feeling. It encompasses all the interactions that help shape a customer's perception of a business. It includes different media, channels, and senses across all the company's touchpoints. A logo, on the other hand, is only a tiny part of a brand. Though it may be the most prominent part, it's still just a fraction.

A brand captures the essence of a business with a level of detail that a logo just can't match.

What is a logo?

A logo is like a person's face; it shows the core traits of a business at a glance. It gives the audience an idea of whether a company is modern, classic, playful, exclusive, etc. It tells the customer what to expect in a short amount of time.

Logos are graphic symbols that identify companies or organizations and make them stand out from the competition. They can be an image, text, shape, or a combination of those.

Logos are important. The thing is, just as you can't know everything about a person by looking at them, there is a limit to what a logo can communicate by itself. Without the support of all the other brand elements, a logo won't go that far.

What is a brand?

Compared to a logo, a brand is a big, detailed picture with a lot more information about a company. It gets shaped by the experiences your customers have with your brand, from obvious things like your logo, color palette, and employee uniforms to less obvious ones like how you answer the phone or how courteous your delivery drivers are.

According to branding expert Marty Neumeier, "Your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what they say it is." A brand is the customer's perception of a product, service, or company. So, a brand is more of a feeling that people value and remember.

Do you need a logo or a brand?

You need both. A brand can exist without a logo, but not the other way around.

One of the first thoughts of some business owners when starting a business is that they need a logo to put their name out there and start getting some recognition. It is a common theme among checklists found throughout the internet.

Some people even say there is no need for a logo to start a business. Just offer a product or service, gain customers, make money, and then think about creating a brand. Once you are big enough, working on your brand will become a priority. It is backward thinking to leave the creation of your brand until the end of your business plan. It's like setting your destination for a trip after hours of driving in a random direction. There is something fundamentally wrong with this approach. If brand experiences create your brand, it is being made whether you have a logo or not or if you put thought into the experience. Your customers are forming an opinion of your business every single time they interact with it.

Logo vs. brand example

Let's use Red Bull as an example. Red Bull's logo consists of two bulls facing each other in a fighting position over a yellow circle. Bulls traditionally symbolize strength, energy, stamina, and endurance. Red is passion, courage, and energy.

Those are great attributes, but as much as the logo appeals to the values of blue-collar Thai workers, it doesn't communicate the specifics of the company, its values, or its mission, for instance.

As a brand, Red Bull is synonymous with much more than strength and energy than what the logo conveys. Dietrich Mateschitz grew the brand to be associated with humans pushing the boundaries of what's possible. Red Bull is about taking courage, creativity, and performance to a new level. Their purpose is "Giving Wiiings to People and Ideas." And they have achieved this by consistently pushing the limits. They arranged Felix Baumgarten's jump from space, have a very successful Formula 1 team and give money to athletes all over the world, both extreme and traditional.

The result is that every time someone experiences the Red Bull brand, by seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting it, they remember everything the brand stands for. Its logo by itself can't do all those things.

What creates a good brand?

A good brand tells people precisely what the business is all about and makes an emotional connection with them. It delivers on what it promises. Speed, quality, freshness, kindness, etc. Whatever the promise is.

A successful brand builds trust and gives its customers the confidence to know what to expect.

How do you create a brand?

You create a brand through repetition and consistency by showing up the same way across different channels and touchpoints. You can't control your customers' perceptions. You can only control what you do and how you do it. Every experience with your name on it speaks on your behalf. They are all communicating something. A solid brand strategy that drives your brand's outputs—packaging, blog posts, copy, social media, etc.—ensures that they all communicate the same thing and support each other. It is essential because it acts as a north star for everyone creating on behalf of your brand to know where to go. It helps you, your vendors, and your ambassadors understand who you are and who you are for. This way, regardless of channel or situation, everyone will know how to choose the right imagery, color palette, sound, music, scent, tone of voice, etc. You can read more about brand strategy here.

Your Logo Is Not Enough

New companies don't need a logo to be in business. They need to get their customers' attention to connect and earn their business. And the best way to make that connection is through a thoughtfully crafted brand.

The name of the game is memorability. In a world full of competition, you want people to remember your business when they need your product or service, hoping they visit your website, retail location, social media channels, etc. The way to achieve that recognition is by creating a consistent and positive brand experience where all these touchpoints are aligned and support each other. Essentially, the more positive experiences you give your customers, so they remember you, the higher your chances are of shaping a brand the way you want.