Whether you are an individual trying to draw attention to your unique skill set, personality or life’s journey; or a startup trying to gain traction and create awareness in a saturated landscape of businesses, or a medium to big corporation already known for some product or service, you need branding. The question always is, what exactly is branding? Close to the heels of this question is another: what is a brand? Well, allow me to begin with what a brand is not.

A brand is not a logo.

Yes, I said it. A brand is not that carefully crafted symbol, mark or typographic work of genius that adorns your office wall in glorious 3D, or your social media pages, or your team bonding t-shirts. Though a logo is an important part of a brand’s identity, it is in no way a brand. In reality, just like an iceberg (everyone knows this analogy!) where what is beneath the water’s surface far outweighs the parts of the iceberg we see above the surface, the logo is only a small part of what a brand is. It’s what we see on the surface while the brand is the entire mass of the “iceberg”, which includes that less visible (beneath the surface) but much, much larger and highly foundational structure. The brand is the entire “spirit, soul, and body” of the business – it is what makes it tick.

Also, and I’ve really got to say this, “please and please,” (to use a quirky Nigerian phrase for emphasis) branding is not putting a logo or monogram on a T-shirt, baseball hat, pen, key holder, or diary.

A logo is only the tip of the iceberg.

So what really is a brand?

A brand is the experience that the target audience has when they come in contact with your business. It’s a perception in the mind of your audience created over time, about your business or person ( a brand may also cover a place/destination). A brand is not objective, but it is emotions and philosophies – that “gut feeling” that a customer gets when they think of you/your brand/business (as defined by Marty Neumeier).

Branding, then, is simply how you direct (or work to direct) all of these perceptions in the mind of your consumers and audience and encompasses your message, your voice – the way you speak including tone and language (your choice of words), your people (audience and employees), the physical or offline environments (offices and facilities), online presence (websites, social media), your purpose, principles and values, your strategy and all your visual communication and assets including, you guessed it, your logo.

So next time you hear someone talk about their logo, and equate that to a brand, I hope you can tell them the cold hard truth: a logo is only the tip of the iceberg.