Small Business Branding: Difference Between Brand, Identity, and Logo

3 min read

Thinking about small business branding? There are many misconceptions about the differences between a brand, identity, and logo. It's often perceived that a logo is the identifier of your business branding. Really, each of these three elements intertwine, and each plays a specific role in the company development.

Small Business Branding Small Business Branding: Difference Between Brand, Identity, and Logo

Below is the short definition of each:

What is a logo?  Identifies the business through an icon or mark in its simplest form.

What is identity?  Visual features that establish the overall brand.

What is brand?  It is a perceived emotion of your corporate image.

First up, logo: The corporate identifier

Creating a logo is typically the design "starting point" when developing your business brand or reinventing it. You choose your company name, and then you start brainstorming about how to represent it with a logo. But what is the logo, and how does it help brand your business?

SparkReaction-Logo-2To put it simply, a logo identifies your business through an icon or a mark. A logo can contain the business' name, a graphical element, a tagline, or any combination of those elements.

For example, a font-based logo similar to the FedEx logo is known as linotype. A logo at its simplest form is a symbol similar to the Target “Bullseye” or the Nike “Swoosh.” (But being recognized by just a symbol can take years, so if you're just starting out, include your company name in your logo!)

Many businesses embark on a website redesign for their rebranding—we can do that too. Learn more here.

Identity: Your consistent visual features

Once the logo is created, it is applied to many different media. It is paired with other kinds of design traits: certain colors, lines, imagery, etc. This is the visual identity of a brand — the look and feel of the company across media channels.

Think of Starbucks, for example. Whether you're in-store, online, or looking at your cup of Joe, you'll see similar features everywhere: deep green colors, earthy textures, and similar looking fonts. This makes up the visual identity of Starbucks.

The visual identity of a business is used in many places, including:

  • Business cards
  • Website
  • Marketing collateral (PowerPoint, data sheets, brochures etc)
  • Social Media
  • Packaging
  • Store/office décor

Creative designers will often create an identity guide to ensure visual consistency. This guide may include color schemes, font styles, logo usage guidelines, etc. 

We often call this identity "branding." But don't get it confused — a visual identity is different than a brand itself.

Keep in mind this important caveat, though: Visual identity is only one piece of attracting your qualified leads. Your branding must be part of a bigger marketing plan. Grab our free guide below to learn more about the pieces you need to make your business plan really work.

Finally, brand: The overall perceived emotion

A brand is often perceived as the logo or identity. But really, it encompasses both the corporate logo and look and feel of the visual identity. Business branding is much more than the visual components: it includes the messaging, content and story surrounding the brand. The visuals of your brand can continue to this feeling. But branding is deeper: it defines an emotional relationship between customers and the business. (Here's an infographic on how to develop your brand in 10 steps!)

Overall, branding is an emotional response. This is dictated by the audience. It is your reputation in the marketplace, and it translates as a promise to customers. Branding is created not only by how you promote and define yourself, but also the way others define and view you as an organization. Customer service and client experience play an invaluable role towards branding. Delivering on a promise will keep customers happy and continue to build confidence in the brand.


As you can see, visual identity, logo, and branding all play a role in the development of a business. One element is not complete without the others, and they work together to breathe life into your business. Understanding the difference is crucial to creating a visual and emotional story around your company.

And don't forget that this story will only work in a greater marketing context. To find out how to really market for your target audience, download our free eBook below.