Friday, February 9, 2007

Logo vs. Brand

Having a logo does not mean you have a brand.
Having a brand does not mean you need a logo.
Let's explore the difference....

What is a Logo?
A visual symbol to represent your company. An effective logo does not require a person to read, is distinctive and instantly recognizable, and conveys something about the brand experience of your product or service.

What is a Brand?
A brand is the impression that your product or service leaves on a customer. It's how people feel about and what people think of their experience with your product or service. A logo can be used to help customers recognize a brand, but is not required for a brand to be effective.

In order for a logo to be effective, a customer has to come into contact with the brand in its intended context before the logo can mean anything to the customer. For example (I'm only using DJ because I know he can take it), DJ's logo of the silhouette with shadow means a lot to photographers and clients who are aware of DJ and his work and have experienced him in one way or another. However, if DJ's logo were placed on a t-shirt and he was wearing it in a mall - people who have never seen DJ's website or slideshow would just think it's an interesting design and would have no idea that it stood for the guy wearing the shirt, or any of the things attached to the DavidJay brand. Also consider how differently his brand is perceived by wedding clients vs. photographers - a brand means different things to different markets based on the context in which people have encountered a name or logo.

When I say "Gary Fong," what do you think of? Here's a guy who doesn't really have a logo, but has a very strong brand. There are a lot of feelings and thoughts attached to his name and whether you like him personally or not, you recognize his name every time you hear or see it. The name Gary Fong can also be perceived differently based on the experiences you've had with his products or service - OR based on what OTHER people have said about his products or service (regardless of whether or not they've tried them!) Anytime you encounter a brand via personal experience or by word-of-mouth, you add more impressions of what a particular brand means to you.

Let's try some more...

BluDomain and Pictage have a strong brand and an identifyable logo (once again- to those that have seen the logos in their original contexts). If you have never experienced the products and/or service of either companies for yourself, your impressions of these brands are based solely on what other people have said about their experiences. If you have only read or paid attention to the complaints about both services and products, you probably have quite a negative impression of the brand and wonder why anyone would use either. Since most people tend to be more vocal when things are going wrong (squeaky wheel gets the grease) and people are skeptical by nature, negative comments appear to happen more often and have more impact than positive comments. There could be thousands of people who are happy with both services but because they are perfectly content, they have no need to go out of their way to say anything. And if someone does make an unsolicited comment about how much they love a service, it appears as a solicitation because we are skeptical of the intent behind the self-promotion of a particular product or service.

Now apply this to your business. Here are some essential questions to ask yourself, and to answer. Rather than simply reading them, I suggest taking the time to copy them and write out the answers for yourself. You may be surprised by what you discover when you take time to read and reflect on your answers over time:
• Right now, are you more focused on building your logo or your brand? Which is most important in the long-run?
• Do you need a logo? If you don't need one, why do you have one? If you do have one, what does it communicate when it's seen out of context - and is that helping or hurting your brand?
• What impressions are you deliberately sending to your clients and potential clients? What impressions are you accidentally sending to clients and potential clients?
• What impressions are you deliberately and accidentally sending to non-clients?
• How does putting your logo or name on different products affect your brand? When do you want to avoid using your name or logo?
• How/When/Where do your clients and potential clients experience your brand? How/When/Where is your brand experienced by people who are not clients or potential clients? (Vendors you deal with, people you meet or talk with outside of your business, other photographers, etc.)
• How do the experiences of both clients and non-clients affect your overall brand?

I don't claim to be an expert, and this is by no means a definitive guide to logos or branding, but I do hope that it gives you something to chew on and to apply to your business. (Posted on OSP, 2/8/07)


  1. hey, anne,
    great questions! this came at a perfect time for me.
    I'm a big fan of how your watermarking/ logo/ branding is very clean and simple, yet elegant, and lets the photos speak for themselves. great inspiration!

  2. Anne,
    This post is spot on. We liked it so much we mentioned it at our blog

    Pardon the mess at our blog, we're just getting started ;)