Logo vs. branding: What's the difference?

Nick A. | July 30, 2021
6 mins

We interact with brands every day, whether it’s a tagline, a logo, or even a color (like the famous T-Mobile pink or Dunkin’ Donuts orange). These elements are all part of a collective effort called brand identity, and some of these efforts are more obvious than others. For example, you know you’re interacting with a brand when you see its logo, but that logo is only one part of the branding equation. 

If you want to meaningfully brand your company, it’s important to recognize that branding goes beyond just a logo. The primer below will walk you through logos, brands, branding, and the vast world of their overlaps and differences.

A logo is a unique graphic that represents a business or product in any setting, including on packaging, on a physical product, and on the Internet. It typically consists of shapes, symbols, colors, and a typeface. 

A company’s logo can be found on its websites, advertising materials, gift cards, and business cards, not to mention on signage like that found on storefronts. In all these uses, the logo’s goal is to evoke an emotion and help you remember and visually picture the brand long after you interact with it.

Yellow wombat on the dark purple background logo

What is a brand?

When defining the term “brand,” it’s best to look at three terms side by side:

  1. Your brand comprises your company’s reputation and the unique values that set it apart from others. It’s what comes to mind for the average consumer when they think of your company. It is not your logo, despite the terms “brand” and “logo” often being conflated. Instead, your logo is one piece of the complex puzzle that is your brand.
  2. Branding is the process of establishing your brand. Logo design is only one part of this — brand awareness initiatives, online reputation management, and numerous other processes, all of which intend to quickly distinguish your company from others, are part of branding.
  3. Brand identity comprises your company’s brand, your logo, and the actual customer experience independent of how your business appears. A great example of the latter is Amazon adding lockers and drop-off centers to its services. Since Amazon was already known for lightning-fast, inexpensive online purchases and deliveries, it chose to add these new services to reaffirm its identity as a highly convenient, affordable brand.

What branding includes

As you build your brand (and as you come to understand the logo vs. branding distinction), you’ll see that branding is a combination of the following business needs:

  • Brand definition and positioning. What value does your company offer customers? How does it offer these values in ways unlike its competitors? Answer these questions to better define and position your brand.
  • Marketing and advertising. All your marketing campaigns should include your logo, but that’s only the beginning: The way you promote yourself establishes your brand identity. Fun, upbeat marketing materials strike a different tone for your brand than serious marketing materials, for example. That’s all a part of the impression you want to make on your audience.
  • Customer experience. How your in-person staff interacts with your customers partially defines your brand. So does the accessibility and demeanor of your customer service phone, email, or live chat team. To again use Amazon as an example, the brand’s reputation as an inexpensive, convenient mega-retailer partially stems from its extremely accommodating customer service team.
  • Company culture. Internally, your company culture strongly influences your employees’ happiness and performance. Externally, happier and more productive employees result in better customer experiences. Additionally, values such as working to always please the customer may be fundamental to your company’s culture and thus its brand. This is becoming increasingly important nowadays as more customers look to purchase from brands that they perceive as ethical — part of that equation is how a company treats its staff.
  • Products and services. The items you sell define your brand. For example, if you’re opening a restaurant, offering an all-vegan menu could suggest to customers that you’re branding your operation as environmentally conscious. That signaling, while not explicit, becomes part of your brand.
  • Packaging. Logo and branding guidelines suggest including your logo — which is a key reflection of your brand — on the boxes containing your products. To understand why doing so matters, think about deciding between a branded or generic product at the drugstore. Chances are the generic product, though less expensive, lacks compelling packaging. The familiarity of the brand-name packaging might sway you to buy it, as that logo stands for a brand that has worked hard to build your trust.
Mesmerizing logo on the terracotta background

How logos and branding differ

As all the above shows, the branding vs. logo distinction comes down to the latter being a tool used for the former. Logos help to establish and maintain your brand’s visual identity. Your choice of logo shape, color, and typeface can all evoke different psychological responses in consumers, who will associate these feelings with your company. Those emotions you’re trying to evoke are part of your branding.

And that’s not all that logos do for your branding:

Why logos are important for branding 

Logo design and branding go hand in hand. Reviewing the best logo design and branding practices listed below should help explain why:

  1. Good logos are instantly recognizable. The Target bullseye. The Starbucks mermaid. The NBC peacock. When you see these things, you know exactly what the brand is, and you probably already know what that brand offers or what it stands for. A logo that evokes this instant a connection can make your company seem reputable and trustworthy.
  2. Good logos make your company an experience, not just a business. Displaying your logo on your website, ads, packaging, and everything in between makes your company appear more robust and powerful. This consistency can make purchasing from your company feel like an experience, not just an errand. As a result, customers may come flocking back time and again.
  3. Good logos set you apart from your competitors. Presumably, your competitors offer many of the same products and services as your company. However, they probably don’t sell their offerings in quite the same way you do. Your logo can imply this difference to customers. For example, another brand’s circular, blue competitor logo may feel less action-driven than a red, horizontal-line logo, so try the latter if you want to brand your company as fact-acting. Customers might subconsciously pick up on this distinction.
  4. Good logos do the talking for you. Many forms of marketing require that customers read some amount of text, but memorable logos can do much of the talking for you. When you see a subway ad with a logo and just a few words, the message is clear — in other words, the brand and its unique values are registering with you. With the right logo and branding ideas, your company’s visuals can achieve a similar effect.

Logo design vs. branding: It’s not an either-or

The oft-asked question “How are logos and brands different?” misses the point. This question implies that brands and logos exist in entirely different spheres when, in reality, they couldn’t be more interconnected. 
Without a strong logo, your brand will flounder. If you don’t define all the other values that comprise a brand, your logo could ring hollow. You can’t work on one without affecting the other, and with Namecheap’s free logo maker, you can easily create a logo that speaks to everything important about your company. With a great logo, you can drive and support the brand identity you want to put out into the world — get started today!


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Nick A.

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.

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