What Is A Brand? It’s Not A Stinking Logo, That’s For Sure.

In Work on

Once upon a time, your brand was simply your logo. Historically, as with homogeneous cattle, a brand a uniquely identifying mark that said “this is mine” in a prairie of brown bovines. A graphical representation of a company name in a sea of similar companies.

For many, the brand is still the logo. Many graphic designers could give a five hour presentation about the importance of your logo. They may say things like, “Coca Cola has one of the most recognized logos in the world.” And expect you to be impressed by this statistic. As if having a globally distinguishable graphic attached to your company is the very definition of branding success.

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.

Albert Einstein

While I’m a fan of the logo concept, I believe a logo is just part of the branding picture. And, at the end of the day, not terribly important if the rest of your brand is conveying a meaningful, unique message. I’d even go so far as to say you can have a crap logo designed by a high school student and still have a successful brand.

So if your logo isn’t your brand, what is? I define it this way: your brand is the sum total experience any person has with your company. And he gets to define it as he sees fit. Whether he’s a loyal customer or a vituperative hater. And your job is to sculpt that experience. To create a consistent, cohesive, analogous experience every time any individual encounters your company.

What goes into your brand? Three things: its product, its presentation, and its practices.

  1. Product. This includes things that relate to the product itself, such as its raw materials, product quality, attitude and mood. As well as placement: when, where, when, how, and why it’s available.
  2. Presentation. This is where the logo falls, along with brochures, signage, copy, websites, and packaging. Anything that explicitly seeks to communicate what your company is about.
  3. Business Practices. How your business operates creates an ongoing reinforcement of the brand and enhances your ability to create a cohesive experience. It includes things like customer service practices, employee communication and treatment, and your contribution to the industry.

The logo’s just a teeny weeny part of that.

When I talk branding, one of my favorite companies to talk about is Apple. Apple exemplifies my brand concept beautifully and its logo is such an insignificant part of it all. Sure, we all know the Apple logo, but the company is (for me, who gets to define it as I see fit) about simplicity, impeccable design, innovation, and quality. And those things permeate everything Apple does. Apple stores scream innovation. Staff job titles are creative, clever, and new. The staff itself are made up of knowledgeable gadget geeks who consistently talk intelligently about the products available. And the products are bleeding edge, beautifully designed, and relatively simple.

And don’t try to tell me I get all this from a damn logo. No. I believe this because the company presentation, product, and business practices exemplify it. Nobody buys an iPhone because of the logo. They do it because of all the stuff going on behind that picture of partially eaten fruit.

As a small business owner, building your brand shouldn’t start (or stop) with your logo. So where should you start? With your values and whatever is important to you. With a refined, perfected product for its market. With your goals and aspirations for the business. With how you exemplify that vision and communicate it to a public who’s bitch slapped, tackled, and hogtied by similar companies every stinking day.

Only after you figure out this new definition of your brand should you go shopping for a designer to create an icon to represent it.

Comments (2)

  1. Justin 5 months ago

    “your brand is the sum total experience any person has with your company. And he gets to define it as he sees fit. Whether he’s a loyal customer or a vituperative hater. And your job is to sculpt that experience. To create a consistent, cohesive, analogous experience every time any individual encounters your company.”

    That’s one of the best definitions of branding that I’ve ever heard. And one I’m going to keep in the forefront of my mind as I built my brand.

    I always struggled with branding because the info never really went beyond logo and font. Occasionally I would see some talk about the cattle brand idea. But it never really got flushed out. So I never totally grasped it.

    Shopping for a logo after you define your brand is also a great idea. And something I wish I would have done.

  2. Author
    Jen 5 months ago

    Thanks! Always good to hear that.

    I feel it’s because graphic designers and marketing peeps have historically owned the “branding” domain. Their self interest is elsewhere .Marketers want to sell, designers want to design. It’s easy to forget about connection when you’re corporate. But it’s an area the little guys can really capitalize on. Especially in the B2B realm, but also smaller B2C operations like ours.

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