Logo, Identity, Brand…three words that are often used interchangeably, confused and misunderstood. Let’s take a look at and define each of them. We’ll use Apple Inc. as an example throughout this article for consistency. Yes, I use a Mac…:)


A logo is a visual symbol that is used to identify a company, product, services, etc. It may contain text (logotype) and/or a graphic symbol (logomark). Apple Inc.’s apple symbol with a bite out of it is a logomark. Because of the strength of this mark, it no longer needs text to identify it with the company or their products. You see the apple logomark and you know it’s Apple Inc. That is a strong logo. There are not a lot of companies that can bask in this kind of graphic glory.


Identity is the visual presentation of a company, its products and its services. How the logo and related messaging are applied to stationery, advertising, marketing messages, packaging, etc. determines a company’s identity.


These guidelines are generally presented in an Identity Manual (sometimes called Identity Guide or Logo Usage Manual). It includes guidance on how to use the logo, related colors and fonts, acceptable variations, the spacial relationships of elements and a variety of other factors that affect how a company’s logo and messaging are visually presented. These can be extremely detailed as seen in this small example from Apple. A consistent visual message is an important foundation for the way in which a company is identified. And, the larger the company, the more controls they will need to have on their visual assets. Smaller companies usually do not need an application manual to tell them how to do this. However, a short 6-10 page guide that includes basic logo usage, colors, compatible fonts, and spacing can be a valuable asset that helps maintain a company’s identity as it grows. Having seen what a logo is and how it relates to identity, let’s move on to “brand.”


A brand encompasses a company’s logo(s) and identity, but also several emotional components such as: promises, expectations, personality, and perceptions. So, what does Apple deliver in these areas? Let’s break it down.

Promises – From the very first commercial through today, Apple promises you will be different…you will break out of the mold…your uniqueness will shine through.

Read more about this historic commercial on Wikipedia.

Not only did Apple deliver a strong brand promise with this commercial, but as Steve Hayden of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide tells us the commercial “established that venue as the platform for big, new branding campaigns.” He was referring to the Super Bowl. Here we are some 30 years later and companies are still using the Super Bowl spots for big introductions and important messaging. Talk about fallout! But, let’s get back to branding…

Expectations – When you buy an Apple product, you expect it to be easy to use, from the time it is ordered through the late nights you spend using it. Whether you go into an Apple store or you order online from Apple.com, it’s easy, inviting and friendly. Transferring old files is easy…they’ll even help you do it. Updates are easy. Using the software is easy and intuitive. Apple knows that you don’t want their technology in the way of what you need to accomplish. Apple ‘gets’ their customers and Apple customers ‘get’ what they expect. Expectations are fulfilled at every touch point. Forbes has written extensively about the detail Apple addresses in order to meet customer expectations.

Personality – From the industrial design to the user interface, marketing, packaging, advertising and more, each Apple product has a consistent, clear personality. It is friendly and simple, yet technologically superior. Customers know that they can walk into an Apple store and get the answers and help they need. Apple’s personality allows me to approach them and know they are there for me. Make a Genius Bar appointment and get the help you need any time. It’s free to talk to them so that you can get some answers that will help you make better decisions. These Genius Bar appointments deliver the helpful, knowledgeable Apple personality.

Perceptions – The perception Apple still holds is that it delivers quality products that are innovative. Just take a look at their hardware and software design. Look not only at the visual appearance, but also at how functional they are and how easy to use. Their introduction of the stunning new Mac Pro last year delivered on the perception of innovation. This product was a total departure from past designs and a huge leap in technology from previous generation Mac Pros. Yes, I’ll admit, I drooled.

Logos – The visual symbols that identify the company, its products and services.

Messages – So, what are some of the messages that Apple sends? How about these:

  • Innovative – highly creative and capable of going beyond what has been done before
  • Easy-to-use – interactions and transactions are uncomplicated
  • Collaborative – someone is there to help when you need it
  • Extraordinary – committed to exceptional products and services without compromise

Apple delivers these messages in subtle and not so subtle ways through their advertising, marketing, sales outlets and more.

Packaging – Apple’s packaging is simple, elegant, and easy to identify. This is a reflection of and delivery on expectations, personality, perceptions, and promises. Could you imagine an Apple computer being delivered in anything but an elegant box that says “here’s what we promised?”

These, and other, emotional and visual components create a brand.

The brand is the “customer experience.”

Designers and marketers do not create brands. They create logos and identities (sometimes referred to as brand identities). And brands are not limited to huge companies. Brands can be crafted for smaller, local companies as well. It all depends on the commitment of the company, staff and support system to deliver on the company’s promises. A strong brand must come from the inside out, not the outside in. A designer can create all the amazing logos, messaging or other visual components they want, but if the company does not deliver on its emotional components and connect with its customers, the brand will be weak and eventually fall apart.