Does Your Business Need a Logo or Brand Identity


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9 min read

Does your business need a logo or brand identity? That’s a question that you need to ask early when starting a business.

We’re big advocates of building brands here at Canny Creative. Earlier, when we were examining a potential new client with our partner company, LA Designs, we stumbled upon an interesting discussion:

Does every business need a complete brand identity, or sometimes will a simple logo design do the job?

The company in question sell solar panels.

Their logo looks like this:

Realistically, it’s not a bad logo.

It’s to the point, and communicates effectively exactly what they do. Perhaps it’s a little complex, but it’s not the end of the world.

And I don’t mind that!

Sean had a differing opinion:

He said “All this logo says to me is, we sell solar panels. To me, this says there’s nothing unique about the company, and therefore potential buyers may as well shop around for the lowest price.”

But does that matter?

Let’s take a closer look.

Logo Design vs Brand Identity

There’s quite a big difference between a single logo design and a brand identity.

A single logo design is just that, a symbol or visual marker to identify your business. A brand identity is a system that you can apply across your brand’s visual presence.

For a more detailed summary of branding check out our post: What is Branding?

What is Logo Design?

A logo design is a standalone visual graphic that yourself and your customers use to define your business. There’s not a lot more to it than that.

If all you have in terms of an identity for your business, is a single logo design, I would argue that you haven’t considered your business brand enough.

What is a Brand Identity?

A brand identity, is a clearly outlined set of visuals, or guidelines, that can be applied no matter the medium.

Your brand itself is a set of beliefs that your business operate under. It’s also a set of perceptions that customers have about your business.

Branding works on two levels, one from the inside out. That’s the things that are at the heart of your business. What you stand for, what you believe in, the story you want to tell etc.

And one is from the outside in. That’s the way your customers view your business, the stories they believe, the way they see your business.

Your brand identity is the visual element of your business and should tie to your brand vision. Confusingly, your logo forms part of your brand identity too.

We wrote The Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide to help small businesses and companies understand and define their brand.

So how do you know if your company needs a logo or brand identity?

The 5 Key Questions

There are a set of key questions that you can ask yourself when it comes to deciding between having a logo or brand identity designed.

Let’s take a look:

What Are Your Business Goals and Aims?

Your goals and aims have a lot to do with how you brand your business.

For example:

If you’re a tradesman, who is quite content with making enough money to live, and you don’t want to grow a huge organisation, and hire people etc, then a logo to slap on the side of your van is just fine.

However, if you have aspirations to become the next McAlpine, or Bellway, then you need to think a little differently.

Bigger companies with bigger goals, need a more considered and well thought out brand identity.

This is because, if you’re looking to grow a lot bigger, you’re naturally going to have a lot of extra branded materials.

If you’re a sole trader, you might just have a van, and some business cards.

However if you’re looking to create a corporate building giant, there’s a high chance you’ll have:

  • Multiple vans
  • Relevant stationery
  • Protective clothing and uniforms
  • Site signage
  • A high end website

There’s a lot more to consider. Business growth plans should effect the way you build your brand. This is also one of the key reasons you should find a design agency that you can rely on and trust.

By sharing your business vision with your design agency, they can help you put the right plans and brand strategy in place from the off. This makes sure you’re putting your best foot forward from day one.

What Does Your Business Do?

Some types of business just don’t need a professional logo design or brand identity. Others however, definitely do.

Taking into account your desire for growth and business plans is step one. If you’re happy to make a modest living by running your own business, then I would say:

  • Tradespeople
  • Dog Walkers
  • Handymen
  • Cleaners

Can all get away with having a basic logo designed, or by using a design service such as SquareSpace.

The key is still your business goal.

If you’re a dog walker, but you want to grow and have dog walkers up and down the country, then you’re not really a dog walker. You’re a business person that wants to operate in the dog walking space.

If you’re a professional service business, or are planning to use your brand, website, or digital marketing, to grow your business, then you need a professional brand identity design.

The goals of your business are more important than the type of work you do when it comes to choosing between a logo design or brand identity project.

How Crowded is Your Market Space?

This is quite an interesting question to ask yourself.

Design, whether a logo or brand identity, can be used to differentiate yourself from your competition.

If you’re operating in a crowded market space, then it’s going to be important you work with an agency to create a unique brand identity for your business. Not only to differentiate yourself, but to also align yourself.

Think about restaurants in a capital city. Their branding needs to work on several levels:

  • It needs to be attractive to customers
  • It needs to establish the restaurant as a trustworthy outlet. The food is good, no risk of food poisoning etc. All restaurants would want this. So that’s a case of using your brand to align your business.
  • Then, it needs to work to differentiate your restaurant from your competition.

That’s quite a complex challenge. You’re asking your brand identity to do three things for your business. And that’s why in that space, a simple logo design won’t do.

On the flip side of that, you might be the “first to market” with a truly unique service offering.

Let’s pretend you’ve invented the first successful time machine. You might think that people are going to flock to your business.

But, here’s the deal:

  • Your brand needs to instill trust and confidence in people. Nobody is stepping into your time machine if they don’t trust you.
  • You need to spread the word about your business. How are people going to know about the time machine?
  • You’ve created something truly unique, there should be an element of pride that comes with that.
  • You’re in a position to set the bar within the industry.

Sure, people will want to check out your time machine, even if you use Comic Sans and have your logo designed on Fiverr. But whether you’ll manage to make the same impact and position yourself as the leading time machine expert, without professional branding, remains to be seen.

Time machines aside…

Are You Looking to “Steal” Attention From Competitors?

This ties back to how crowded your marketplace is.

If you’ve got the world’s first time machine, you don’t need to steal away attention from competitors. You have to steal them from yourselves.

However, if we go back to the restaurant example, you would absolutely need to steal attention from competitors.

Now, there are several ways you can do that:

  • Special offers and deals
  • Offering something free
  • Have a unique offering
  • Have the longest queue on the street
  • Utilise your brand, having a strong physical and digital presence

Having a good online and digital presence will help you win customers from afar. People live their lives online these days, and if you can get ahead of your competitors that way, it’s worth the investment.

Think about it.

If you run an Indian restaurant, have a YouTube show. Show people behind the scenes. How you make your curry. How the naan bread is made. Let people in, and you’ll have people coming to you just because of that.

But if you’re going to steal attention, you need to have more than a logo design.

Looking at the YouTube example alone, you’re going to need:

  • A strong brand visual (logo/colour palette etc)
  • Animation
  • A title sequence
  • Music or sound

All of this builds your brand and vision. Consistency across your platforms is key.

Stealing attention is easy to do, if you think about it logically. Look at what your competitors are doing, and do it better, or do the opposite. Then shout about it.

If you’re in the business of stealing attention, you need a brand and an idea of how you want to grow it. A simple logo design won’t work for you here.

Are You Looking to Grow, Now or in the Future?

Again, this is another goal related question.

Sure, you might not be looking to grow right now. You might just want to get your ducks in a row, and get your business off the ground.

But have a long hard think about what you might want to do in the future.

If you go in and spend money on a simple logo design and website now, then have to change it in 6 months time, you’re going to cost yourself a lot of money and give yourself an added headache.

I’m a big fan of the following:

“Set up your business for where you want to be in 5 years. Not where you want to be in 6 months.”

That way, you can put yourself ahead of the game. No need for expensive rebranding projects, or to have to rip up your website and start again.

“Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Is another of my favourite little quotes.

Get things right at the start, stop worrying about it, and grow your business.

Conclusion: Does Your Business Need a Logo, or Brand Identity?

The battle between a single, simple, logo design or brand identity isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Some designers will tell you a logo design is all you need. It could well be, but it depends on your goals and vision.

If you want to grow, you need to consider your business branding on a wider scale than you currently are.

Branding is a tool that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to growing and marketing your business. In fact, it’s probably one of the best ways to do it.

So take it seriously. Have a good long think about your business goals, before committing to either a logo or branding project.

What do you think? Does your business need a logo or brand identity? Let us know in the comments below.