Brand vs logo: what’s the difference?

Hannah Gallop

Hannah Gallop


After Cadbury invested £1 million in its first brand overhaul in 50 years, one of our designers was left with a bitter taste. Not because of the final design work, but because of how the work was described in the media. 

Cue an array of reports confusing the terms ‘brand’ and ‘logo’, with a series of ‘spot the difference’ headlines focusing exclusively on the company’s new ‘logo redesign’.

Brand vs logo

When discussing Cadbury's new global identity and how it was misreported, Barques designer Lee Jones said: "So many people confuse what the terms' brand' and 'logo' actually refer to as they are often believed to be the same things.”

The two terms are often mixed up and used interchangeably for a few different meanings. The brand vs logo debate produces differing views among even the design community, so we want to try and help clear any confusion.

"Isn't a logo and a brand the same thing?"

Here's the short answer: no.

Here's a bit of a longer answer: a logo is a graphic representation of a company or product, and while it is often the most memorable element of any company, it isn't a company's entire 'brand'. A brand encompasses every touchpoint consumers have with a company, including marketing, emails, packaging, website, surveys, and so on. 

It is the brand and all of these different touchpoints that help customers create a connection to a company, not just a logo.

A logo is just one element of your brand

By definition, a logo is a recognisable graphic symbol that easily identifies a company, a commercial product or any public and private identity. Think of Nike's swoosh, KFC's colonel and Starbucks' mermaid. These are all logos.

Logos are a quick and visual representation of a brand's message and position. The logo conveys the brand in the way that the Nike swoosh indicates forward motion or Amazon's message that they sell everything from A to Z.

A logo is only part of brand identity but plays a vital role as the visual representation of a business in its simplest form.

A brand is much more than just a graphic symbol

To summarise what a 'brand' is can be a little more complicated as it isn't defined by one thing, and that one thing isn't tangible.

On the surface, a brand is a combination of the logo, website, messaging, values, media, tone of voice, colours, price, customer service, personality, and much more. It encompasses just about everything.

However, as branding has evolved over the years, brands have become more subjective as it has become more about perception and accumulated meaning. Therefore, our conception of what a brand is has become more complicated, difficult to define and hard to pin down with a single definition. Marty Neumeier, author and speaker on all things brand, says "a brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or organisation".

Lee Jones agrees: “a brand is something much more exciting than a logo. It's the way you are made to feel about a product”.

Brands are dynamic as they mean something unique to each person and we all connect with brands differently. Some people can connect meaningfully with a brand to develop trust, loyalty, meaning and engagement. Meanwhile, another person may dislike the same brand due to poor experiences.

Great brands create memorable experiences

To explain the difference between a logo and brand further, let's use Starbucks as an example. The Starbucks logo is an image of a twin-tailed mermaid, or otherwise known as a siren.

The siren was depicted in Greek mythology to lure in sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island (which is often referred to as Starbuck Island5). Just as the mermaids lured in sailors, Starbucks lure in coffee lovers.

We see the logo used on products, online, on social media, on print media, and more. While the logo has a great and deep meaning behind it, does the logo at face value alone provoke us to invest in Starbucks anymore when we compare it to its competitors?

Probably not.

But as consumers engage with brands and build relationships, they will associate logos with the experiences they have had. These memories trigger an emotional and intellectual response that will encourage consumers to make a decision on whether they will consume this brand or look elsewhere.

While it's good to have a logo that stands out, it's more important to create brand relationships that have traction and meaning

At Barques, we bring all of the different branding elements together through well-designed websites, brochures, packaging, advertising and social media, to tell a brand story that's both informative, exciting and creates a lasting impression by connecting with your target audience.

Reinvigourate your brand with Barques

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