The role of logos in brand experiences
How we handle a brand identity determines how we experience a brand.
A logo cannot hope to carry the content of a brand. It is a tag for a brand, it is not the brand itself. However, even though a logo acts as a tag for a brand it also offers its own content to handle. And so does not require direct access to the source material that constitutes the total brand experience to which the post above is at pains to point out.
To many people, especially dedicated logo designers and other logo-obsessors, a logo appears as a complete object and gives the impression that the experience of a brand is idealised and fixed, and as a result of the logo, powerfully contained.
Furthermore, given the prominence of logos, the manner in which they are presented and the pride of place accorded to them they tend to be over-valued and appear to be more than they are worth in reality. This problem is compounded by referring to them as logos. Hence the superficial, pseudo-mystical and misleading allure of the 'logo'.
My point cannot be dismissed as mere semantics. Language mediates experience and so the term logo mediates a particular type of experience. If we refer to a logo as a mark of a brand, the experience of a brand's primary mark (aka logo) will be different. The handling of a brand's primary expression as a brand mark facilitates an understanding that the primary brand mark is one of many brand marks.
Brand marks are more effective at cueing experiences than logos. All the sensationalist power of the title of the post above would be lost by replacing the term 'logo' with the term 'brandmark'. The rest of the post would be an interesting read about brand experiences and not a misleading and attention grabbing stab at the role of logos in brand experiences.
I stab logos too but for the reasons I've described. It's time for a more effective alternative to enter mainstream consciousness. Everyone stands to benefit from talking about brand marks.
I'm not proposing perfect. I'm proposing 'more effective'.
A brandmark (one word) is the primary brand mark (two words). All experiences are made up of terms that establish conditions and determine the nature of the environment at hand. This environment describes the brand and the experience of the brand at hand. The terms of a brand can be handled as marks, linguistic as well as gestural. These marks cue experiences, many of which go beyond the known tags in the practical experience of a brand.
Brand marks are both tags and cues. Tags to the known and stable tangible reality, and cues to the complexities and sensitivities of the deeply personal and shared experience. A language based on these notions indicates where the art, science, religion and philosophy of brands meets with the real world in which people and their social networks live. People deal with these areas of experience on a moment to moment basis and so should brands.
'Corporate' and 'stature' are terms of authority from an institutional space where intimidation and manipulation tend to hold currency and creativity is, more often than not, held to ransom. We no longer talk about corporate identity or endorse authoritarian behaviour. Instead we talk about approachable and responsive brands. This is because everything in the world is subject to brand identity and now more than ever we avoid being told what to do, what to think or how to be.
Brands are the means by which people make their way in the world and brand identity provides the means to handle, understand and determine these brand experiences.
The brand-illiterate still use terms they had been offered by the change-makers of the day, from a pioneering era that brought capitalism to the masses. This was the world of the advertising agency and design consultancy, and their clients via the brands they brought to market. The term logo has been inherited from this time. The change-makers of today need to re-assume a pioneering role and bring more effective brand identity tools to an altogether different market with different needs, expectations and aspirations.
Today the change-makers are the brand consultancies and their clients. Brand consultancies need to follow through with the changes they initiated by taking brand consulting deeper into the brand experience. To achieve this they will need a more effective language to handle brands.
I believe such a language will be made up of brand marks.
The issue here is not brand versus identity.
To mark out an identity you need to brand that identity. Branding is intrinsic to identity. The reason Brand is so prevalent is it describes any discrete identity, including corporate brands. To get rid of Brand you need to offer a viable alternative to branding.
Corporate identity is a secondary conversation used to mean collective identity, irrespective of the size of the institution or legal category. I lead with brand identity and qualify it as corporate if the context doesn't already do that for me.
Design will also only take you so far. Design is a commodity in service of brand strategy. Celebrating the form of a brand mark and the configuration of a strategy comes in the context of a celebration of the creativity exhibited by the brand. If the brand mark in question is creative it will have an optimum form to express that creativity. And it will most competently represent the market space configured by a creative strategic positioning. This approach is the effective branding that leaders need to carry their identities into the minds and hearts of all those whose lives are enabled by the brand.
Corporate identity may traditionally be associated with logos but brand identity and brand marks have an obvious connection. More energy can be spent getting the configuration of the brand strategy and the form and types of brand marks right without spending energy holding a fragmented and cumbersome language together.
As I wrote before, language mediates experience. If you want to describe a compelling, memorable and even magical or transcendent brand experience you require a language that has these qualities.
The purpose of thinking in terms of brand marks is to invoke a more effective impression of what constitutes a brand and to grasp how brand marks determine the substance of a brand experience.
These brand marks are every kind of 'thing' that gives form to a brand, tangible and intangible. These are physical things as well as say, units of language or abstract ideas.
Brand marks describe the form of a brand. They also mark out how a brand is configured. A brand strategy is a configuration of brand marks. Brand marks and brand strategy are intrinsically connected and in combination give expression to brand imperatives ie. the reason (and manner in which) the brand exists.
Thinking in terms of brand marks is a radically different approach to describe and handle brands. As one of many examples, this approach also identifies the limits of design by indictaing what design can and cannot do for brands. It reveals how brands are collectively held opinions and how we might best manage these opinions to make the brand more effective as well as secure it from failure. And in the context of a discussion of iconic brands, provide an understanding of how brands are more likely to become iconic.
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