To succeed, companies need to communicate their core identity to potential customers. In retail's early days, this meant wordy explanations of benefits.
A circa-1910 newspaper ad for Coca-Cola, for example, stated, "There's nothing like it. It's as wholesome as pure water, and quenches the thirst as nothing else will." Nowadays, brands tend to convey such ideas in more immediate, evocative, and memorable ways. A 2019 Coca-Cola print ad, by contrast, states "try not to hear this" in tiny lettering atop a close-up image of the bubbles fizzing on a glass of soda.
As different as these two ads are, they feature the same logo and express the same brand identity; each tells a cohesive story that customers in each era can understand.
What is brand identity?
A brand identity is the core concept that defines a company—the answer to the question, "Who are you?" Your brand identity expresses both what you do and how your company affects people. For example, a pet store might brand itself as a partner in loving and caring for the customers' best friends: their pets. Its tagline might be, "Your best friend's best friend," and the logo might be a heart with the outline of a dog and a cat inside.
To help establish your brand name, your brand identity should define what you do for people—to help shape how they see the company.
In the case of the pet store, the brand identity says the company supports its customers in the loving care of their pets. The brand may invoke feelings of security, contentment, and warmth.
How does your logo support brand identity?
The logo is a key element in a brand identity—the distillation of the brand concept into a single image. As such, a logo has a lot of heavy lifting to do.
"A brand is the feelings or promise people associate with your company," says Madison Carr, owner of Creative Chameleon Studio, a design company aimed at small businesses. "The logo will then become the visual element people tie to those feelings and promises."
Despite the centrality of the logo in brand identity, its job is not to portray everything about a brand. It is more like shorthand—a symbol that represents something larger than itself.
"A logo's only job is to identify a company," says Carr. "You want it to be simple and easy to remember."
How do you create a memorable logo?
Crafting a logo is surprisingly difficult, considering the simplicity of the final product.
"You're ultimately creating an image that authentically sets the foundation for your brand's visual identity," says Andrea Miyares, CEO and lead designer of Iconic Design Group, LLC.
Here are some ideas to consider when creating your logo:
- Keep it simple. Avoid unnecessary visual embellishments. Create a logo people can recognize and remember with a single glance.
- Make it evocative. Think about the feelings that the logo will evoke. What do you want your customers to feel?
- Look ahead. Consider how your logo will fit your company in two, five, or 10 years. Can the logo allow the enterprise to evolve?
"Think about where you see the business years from now to be sure it scales with the business as it grows," says Paula Speights, creative director of Dizzle Graphics Creative Agency. "This simple exercise will save you rebranding headaches in the future."
What does a good logo look like?
Good logos can be literal, figurative, or purely symbolic. Apple's logo is literal: a simple, stylized apple with a bite taken out of it. National Geographic's yellow rectangle logo is a figurative representation of the magazine, but also could represent a frame. Other companies, such as UPS and Pepsi, have symbolic logos that use lines, shapes, and colors to evoke a certain feel.
Text-based logos also can be successful. Think of Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry's: Both have text-based logos that use color and style to make the logo expressive and recognizable.
Whatever type of logo you think you need, it's worth investing time and resources in creating your logo as an essential piece of your brand identity. "A logo is the most important visual element of a company," says Carr. "If done well, it can propel your company past your competitors."
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