Logo Design, Branding and Corporate Identity

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What’s the difference between Logo Design, Branding and Corporate Identity?

Logo design, branding and corporate identity. All pretty much the same thing, right?

I’m glad you asked. While these three, Logo Design, Branding and Corporate Identity essentials for any organisation are related. They are certainly not the same. On one end of the spectrum, logos identify a company. While at the other end, branding works on the unconscious mind to trigger particular associations with a company, with many marketers drawing on disciplines such as social psychology and evolutionary consumerism.

Whooah, Slow down. Let’s start with logos.

Your logo is an immediate visual representation. Signifying your company or product with a symbol or icon. Logo design is usually simple and it may or may not include your company name. It doesn’t sell or describe any further – To be effective a logo should merely be recognisable. Preferably, memorable. McDonald’s™ golden arches, the Apple™ logo, Starbuck’s trademark symbol… on their own they don’t tell you anything about the company. They are all effective in that we can immediately identify the big business names behind them.

OK, got it. But if my logo represents my company, why do I need a corporate identity?

Corporate identity is an extension of a logo. In that it is a wider visual identity for your company, for example, using company colours or a particular design. Creating a corporate identity involves drawing up a setup identity guidelines to deliver visual consistency in your company. This consistency creates a professional image. I mportantly, makes you immediately recognisable.  Corporate identity guidelines lay out the visual devices to be used across your marketing and communications, including on:

  • Stationery – business cards, envelopes, letterheads, notepads
  • Promotional materials – flyers, brochures, catalogues, t-shirts, mugs, posters
  • Digital media – website and social media
  • Signage and banners
  • Products and packaging
  • Staff uniforms
  • Interior and exterior design

Take Richard Branson’s company, Virgin™, as a good example. Across all his businesses, the same shade of red and V logo is used as a corporate identity and we can immediately identify Virgin™ as the business, whatever the product. High in the sky, air hostesses on Virgin aeroplanes wear red, while back down on the ground when you open your Virgin™ media bill the letterhead encompasses the same logo and red tones.

Brilliant.  But in that case, what is branding?

Branding builds in another, much deeper, level of engagement between a company and a consumer. Brands move beyond the visual to elicit an emotional response, often working on the subconscious mind, provoking feelings and associations which convince a consumer to buy into a product or service.

A good way of looking at branding is to consider it as the personality of a company. It’s the ethics and values which a company embodies, how you perceive it and the emotional response in which it triggers.  According to research, marketing uses the language and visual codes of cool, caring, reassuring, sociable, respect or status to create brand desire.  Apple’s™ branding as an innovative and cutting-edge tech firm focuses on putting out new models for its products – if you don’t have the latest model, you don’t have the status.

Branding creates certain associations. They might be that a product/service/company is:

  • Youthful
  • Energetic
  • Responsible
  • Healthy
  • Exciting
  • Sexy
  • Competitive
  • Trustworthy
  • Fun
  • Inspiring
  • Quirky
  • Creative

Right, I’m with you now, branding communicates the core values of a company. I can see how global companies work their brands. But I’m an SME. Do I really need a brand identity? 

It doesn’t matter whether your company is global or community-based, by developing a brand which effectively communicates your ethics and values, the consumers who you are targeting will positively associate with you and be drawn to your product. Take the heartwarming example of Innocent Drinks™, which grew from three friends selling drinks at a British music festival to a European success story, simply by focusing on communicating its core values of simplicity, creativity and responsibility.

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