Branding is complicated. It involves logos, and color schemes, website design, and marketing collateral. It often involves creative teams and marketing campaigns and focus groups. It requires making decisions about your target audience, and how you present your message to them. That can get very complicated, if for no other reason than we make it so.
At the same time, branding is incredibly simple. That's because, at its core, despite all of the effort that goes into 'creating a brand,' a brand isn't your logo or your website. Instead, your brand is the way people feel about your business.
It really is that simple.
Of course, figuring out how people feel about your business (and more importantly, why) is anything but simple. Which is why businesses far too often spend their time and resources trying to fix things like their website, or redesigning their logo, without looking at what is actually wrong with their brand.
What makes it complicated is that the way people feel about your business has to do with far more than just the visual elements you create. Often it's the way someone answers the phone when a customer calls--or if someone answers it at all. It's really about the experience. In fact, you could oversimplify the definition of a brand as the sum of the experiences a customer has with a business.
If your brand is broken, it's not because you need a new logo. In fact, before you consider a rebrand, ask yourself this question instead:
What is it like to be my customer?
Ultimately it's your customer who determines your brand, which means it's probably worth starting with her experience.
Think about what it's like to interact with your company. What are you doing that delights her? What are you doing that drives her crazy? For example, if your customer has to spend more than a few seconds figuring out where to go on your website, that's a bad experience. If your customer spends 25 minutes on hold trying to change a flight because you cancelled the one they paid for, that's a bad experience.
Maybe most importantly, if your company makes a promise, you have to keep it. Every time you make a promise, you're telling a story about who you are and what your customer can expect. When you break that promise, all you're doing is telling an empty story.
For example, Facebook recently introduced a new company logo. Yet, nothing else really changed. It's still the same company, with the same people, and the same strategy of monetizing our personal information. A new logo won't change that.
None of this is to say you shouldn't rebrand your business. But if you do, don't start with your logo. Chances are you don't need a new logo, you probably need a "make-your-customer-happier" thing. That's far more likely to be a process or even a person.
Your logo is just one way to help a customer recall the story they tell themselves about your company. Your job is to tell a better story, and then make it real for your customers.