Logos vs. Brands: What’s the Difference?

Think Face vs. Character

Often we hear the terms “logo” and “brand” used interchangeably. However, as an agency focused on building brands, we believe the difference is significant—and important for companies of all kinds to understand.

Let’s start with a little history. “Brand” is an old term derived from the Scandinavian word “brandr,” which means “to burn.” Thousands of years ago, our ancestors needed a way to label their possessions. They developed simple symbols and applied them to livestock—using hot irons—to quickly identify ownership. So in the beginning, logos and brands were in fact synonymous.

Fast-forward to today’s competitive marketplace, where companies are constantly battling for customers. At their simplest level, logos continue to perform the same basic function of identification and differentiation. A more thoughtful logo may convey some unique aspect of the business, but still must be quick and easy to read (as opposed to an illustration, for example).

Branding, on the other hand, has evolved into a more complex concept. A brand is not one thing. It is an assortment of images, messages, and experiences a customer has collected while engaged with a company or product. A logo is a single component of that—albeit an important one.

It may be helpful to think of a company as a person; the logo is the face, while the brand represents the person in full—character, personality, etc.

Logos vs. Brands: Real-World Examples
A logo is typically the most recognizable visual representation of an entity. Picture Nike’s swoosh, Apple’s—well—apple, and so on.

A brand doesn’t exist on paper—it exists in the mind of the target audience. It should be conveyed at every customer touchpoint, as bringing the brand promise to life is a shared responsibility organization-wide. That said, branding is not a one-way street. A critical part of your brand is the way it makes your customers feel about themselves. For example, is your brand a status symbol? A basis for social identification?


Branding: A Company-Wide Responsibility
Brand building is an ongoing process that every company should focus on. However, it is not simply a marketing endeavor but instead involves every aspect of the customer experience—from visual presentation to personnel to price and beyond. This often requires companies to maintain brand guidelines that ensure team members across departments and facilities are acting in alignment. A distinctive and well-executed brand promise not only enables you to cut through the clutter. Ultimately it can help you increase revenue in a multitude of ways—including driving customer loyalty, supporting premium pricing, and paving the way for successful product line expansion.