• Identity Design

An Identity Is Not a Logo

Creating a solid brand identity consists of more than just plopping a logo on a product and calling it a day.

Quick: When you think Intel, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, it’s not a particular product—after all, the company makes microprocessor chips, which are typically buried inside a piece of electronic equipment. As for me, I think of that particular sequence of notes used as an audio tag at the end of TV spots. You know, that chime. In a brilliant way, the company has, through its “Intel inside” campaign, encouraged consumers to be aware of—and even care about and request—something they don’t even see. They’ve made an identity for something that’s not there.

Sure, a logo plays a role in the establishment of their brand, but creating a solid brand identity consists of more than just plopping a logo on a product and calling it a day. 

A brand identity reflects—no, is—the personality of a company. It is conveyed through the tone of voice a company uses in its communications, the imagery and typography it employs, and sometimes even the colors it wears.

Many companies have gone beyond having just a symbol represent their brands and have also taken ownership of other elements as well. IBM is “Big Blue.” To kids, orange is Nickelodeon. Much has been made of UPS embracing their non-zippy brown and, through some kind of marketing judo, endeavoring to make it hip.

The idea of alternate branding methods is not something new. NBC, for example, started using its signature chime back in 1929. (They registered it in 1950 as the first audible service mark.) Microsoft has made good, consistent use of their Brian Eno-composed startup tone for Windows. That noise is a true audible brand. And I can’t think of Sega without having it shouted in my brain.

My favorite non-logo branding application, however, was the Giorgio Beverly Hills store on 57th Street in New York City, where passersby would periodically be hit with a spray of the scent, supplied by a nozzle pointing out over the sidewalk. OK, maybe a touch annoying, but it was certainly an unusual way of exposing an audience to a brand.

We all know that initial perceptions are important. But you have to have a strong position to back them up. Your position differentiates you from competition in the minds of your audience. And your position is not what you say it is—it’s what your customer says it is. 

Position is where you fit in, and branding is who you are. It is expressed as an identity, and your logo plays only one role in its establishment.

— Alexander Isley

Adapted from articles that first appeared in the Journal of the Type Directors and the Fairfield County Business Journal.

© 2005 Alexander Isley Inc.