“Brand” is a nebulous concept, comprised of a number of elements. What is thought of as “brand” and what is actually “brand,” may be two very different things. We think of brand as being a business name, or a logo, or a tagline. All of these are elements to the overarching concept of “brand”, but are by no means the whole concept.
Brand Versus Identity
When talking about businesses, “brand” and “identity” are often used interchangeably. However, it is more accurate to consider “identity” as the tangible partner to “brand,” an intangible concept. Using “brand identity” is a perfectly acceptable compromise, because it brings the two elements together. A logo, business card, etc., are visual depictions of a brand, and the way we, as consumers, identify a business. The term “brand” encompasses, in addition to the visual elements, the feelings engendered by a company, the impression a company gives, and what a company is known for, among other elements.
A Real World Example
Apple is one of the most well-known companies in the world. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who can’t name the company behind the logo. So, what is the Apple “brand”? Let’s start with it’s identity: The logo, of course. The uniform look given to its products with the aluminum bodies. The “i”: iPad, iPhone, iMac, etc. The term “Mac”. All of these are immediately and uniquely identifiable as being part of the Apple Inc. brand. Those are part of the tangible elements, but what of the intangibility? For one, the air of exclusivity surrounding Apple products. If you are a PC user, you could be using any number of computer brands. But, if you use a Mac, there is no doubt who made it. Another intangible element is the idea that Macs are for creatives. In its advertising, Apple doesn’t highlight productivity applications, it highlights fun and creative apps. It shows users making movies or music, dancing to their iPods, or jumping out of airplanes with iPad in hand.
Your brand can and should grow and change over time. The Apple brand has evolved immensely since its inception. Take a look at the evolution of its logo:
That’s a good visual representation of how the company itself has grown and evolved, as all good companies should. This change is a natural phenomenon that occurs as a business refines its missions and offerings, as it finds its niche. If Apple was the same company in 2017 as it was in 1976, would it be as successful?
Defining Your Brand
How do you go about defining the brand of your business? You have to figure out the intangibles before you can get to designing the tangibles. This is why many designers suggest mood boards; mood boards help you figure out the “feeling” of your company. Are you luxurious or handmade? Both or neither? Are you practical or whimsical? Inclusive or exclusive? Determining who and what your business is, is the first step to designing your brand’s identity.