A logo is just a logo
Your logo is a particular style of displaying your company name. Some companies vary their styles (you can read my blog on flexible logos here) but the number one rule is to always build up a recognisable typographic identity.
There used to be very strict rules for logo use but as digital communication and social media has changed the way marketing messages are delivered, companies have learnt to live with a more relaxed and flexible approach.
...with or without an icon
The icon is an optional extra – a graphic devise that can be used on its own or as part of the logo. The icon, when used on its own, can therefore be seen as part of your branding, especially if you use it creatively.
The rise of visual branding
Branding is a very big word and encompasses a lot of elements – everywhere your audience is in contact with your company, eg. how people answer the phone. So, for clarity what we are talking about here is your visual branding. This can be a defined set of colours, typefaces, images, illustrations, layout or format...
As we evolve the way we communicate with our audiences, entering into more of a dialogue, we are increasingly relying on our (visual) branding rather than our logo to connect and deliver our messages. The logo can be seen as too pushy and salesy which is not always appreciated. After all, we want to connect with people and get them to think of your company as being a source for improvement in their lives.
A DIY brand audit
What is quite easy to do is to draw a circle and in the middle add your most recognisable brand asset. Work your way outwards and list all the other elements that you use regularly (colours, an image, typefaces etc). Outside of your circle list all the different ways you communicate (website, social, digital, print etc.). Now, have a think; do you use the same or connected elements in all your communication? You should be. It can also help you work out what is working well and what isn't. Look for a nice balance between elements that means each different type of communication is well catered for whilst strengthening your brand every time.
Keep it consistent
Even when you have a nice set of elements that you can play with to create different scenarios for why you and nothing else will do, it is critical that you resist the temptation to veer off to make it more 'interesting'. Your own exposure to your brand is far far greater than your audience's and what they really want is a re-assuring consistency even when you are varying your look.
This means you need to have a golden thread that runs through everything you do. This helps with basics like people being able to quickly realise it is you so that they can concentrate on understanding what the message is.
Understanding and managing visual brands should be fun and exciting whilst generating a real return – something that can be measured. It should be a source for inspiration on campaigns and it should inspire future business decisions.