All too often, a CEO will say something like, “We need a new brand. Get marketing to work on it. I want to see five new designs by next Tuesday.” Sure, the company may need to update the look of its logo, but for that logo to really have an impact, the designers will really need to study the company brand.

You can have fast and cheap.McDonald's logo

Let me explain. When you see those golden arches on a red background, what do you think of? Big Mac and fries, of course. You know you can walk up, place your order, and it will take you, on a good day, about five minutes. You’re encouraged, by the hard seats, bright colors and harsh lights, to eat and go. You also know that it will be greasy, salty, and all in all, of fairly poor quality. You know it will be cheap. Lunch will cost you about five bucks.

You can have fast and pretty good.Panera logo

Now think about the warmer earthtones of the Panera logo. What do you think of? Coffee or tea, a moderate selection of soups and sandwiches that are filling, with a greater emphasis on healthier choices. Though this is hardly a crunchy-granola kind of place, nothing here is fried. The restaurant seating is more comfortable, the lights a little softer, the noise level a little lower. Some Paneras have started bringing your order to the table some of the time. It’s still pretty fast, but it’s more expensive – about $10-$12 for lunch.

Or you can have great and expensive.Morton Steakhouse logo

Finally, there’s Morton’s Steakhouse. Black background on logo and website. Subdued lighting. Tablecloth and cloth napkins. Alcohol. Great service. Amazing food. Classy place. As one review said, “expense account prices”. Lunch can easily set you back $25.

So, let’s call logos a brand representation. Brand is what you experience or what you expect to experience when you interact with a business. The logo (golden arches = cheap and fast) is merely a visual representation of that experience.