Maybe you're already an expert, but if this is your first rodeo, do not panic. There's a lot of technical jargon being tossed around out there – and unless this is your wheelhouse, your eyes are probably crossing by now. So, if by chance you're feeling less than 100% on your branding terminology, here's a handy cheat sheet explaining the basics:
Your brand is the public's impression of your company/product/service. It's literally whatever comes to people's minds when they think of you. It's informed by your product, your values, your language, your marketing, your customer service, press, user experience, and the all-powerful word of mouth. Other informers, fortunately, include things like your logo, website, business cards, and packaging. Your brand is the sum of EVERYTHING your prospect thinks and feels when he or she hears your name — both concrete (robin's egg blue packaging) and discrete ("I feel good knowing I’m serving my family a healthy product"). Nevertheless, it's a perception, and exists only in the mind.
Branding, therefore, is the intentional effort to shape that perception. You can’t literally control what people think and feel and say, but by knowing who your audience is and understanding how they need to experience your brand, you can do a surprising amount – not just to make a great impression – but to build a committed relationship with them.
Your brand identity is the essence of your brand – like a personality – and it is the one thing you MUST solidify before undertaking any other branding initiatives. Like human identities, brand identities must be strong and certain to avoid compromise by external influences: to know who they are and what they stand for. People grow to love and commit to brands for the same reasons they do with people: a unique set of values, habits, and character traits, demonstrated consistently and reliably over time.
Your brand identity system (also known as a corporate identity or identity system) is the collection of tangible expressions of this identity. These include things such as:
Your logo is a single element of the more comprehensive brand identity system, and your strongest point of recognition. It identifies your brand in the simplest form possible via a word mark or icon. It does not sell your company directly, nor does it describe your business. Logos derive meaning from the qualities of whomever or whatever they symbolize, not the other way around. Logos are there to identify, not to explain.
A successful logo: