I get asked this question a lot and while, like most things, it's complicated, the easiest way to explain it is to look at what each will do for you.
Get your logo professionally designed and it will:
- Put a professional face on your business (this cannot be underestimated when we live in a world where everything has been designed to attract the eye).
- Set the tone for the business (playful, corporate, high tech etc).
- Differentiate you from the competition.
A professionally designed brand will do all of the above with a couple of key additions:
- Tell prospects why they should care about you. The brand will give you a message to underscore the business. This message will help a good marketer/marketing dept coordinate all marketing initiatives and ensure every dollar spent pushes the business in a singular direction, avoiding the problem of 'marketing schizophrenia'.
- Provide a rallying call for staff by giving them an idea of what the business stands for, and a lens through which all customer interactions should be viewed.
I'll make a couple of disclaimers at this point:
- I refer to 'professionally designed' logos and brands. None of these advantages, for logos or brands, will be realised if the design work is amateurish.
- Building the logo or brand is just the beginning. To fully realise the benefits you must be consistent and clever with your marketing going forward, and you must hold the line and resist the temptation to change things just because you're bored with what you have. Boredom isn't a good marketing reason for anything really - certainly not for a brand redesign.
So which should I get?
A brand. No question, it's an easy choice. A good logo will make you look professional, but it misses a gigantic opportunity. A good brand helps prospects understand what you stand for. What makes you unique. Why they should buy from you. A logo doesn't do this. A good brand is the single biggest competitive advantage you can have because your competitors can never match/copy it.
Admittedly how damaging it is to go with a logo rather than a brand depends on how much marketing you do. If you never advertise you won't be giving the brand the oxygen it requires to grow and take on a life of its own. But if you have plans to be bigger than a one-man-band, then a brand should be what you strive for. It'll be more expensive, but if done well it'll pay for itself over and over again.