If you’ve been hanging around your marketing department lately, you’ve probably heard the phrases “branding”, “logo”, and “identity” thrown around a lot. I would bet they get thrown around pretty interchangeably.

The fact of the matter is that your brand and your identity are quite different, indeed. One you can control completely, and the other… well, it’s not completely in your control.

Let’s start with what you can control… your identity. (See infographic). Your identity consists of all things visual and verbal associated with your company. If you were a person, your identity would be your clothes and your style, and the words that you say. When you’re defining yourself as a person (or company), suiting up and showing up is really important. You know, choose the right shoes, hairstyle, and clothes, and make them appropriate for where you are showing up. That’s all a metaphor for the assets that make up your identity: your name, your logo, graphic assets, tagline, the voice and tone of your content, and many more things. Ideally, you control every version of every touchpoint that reaches your audience, from that last ad you ran to your email newsletter and the packaging of your product. All of that compromises your identity, and should be carefully designed, monitored, and managed by you.

How your brand is different from your identity is where it gets interesting. (See infographic). It might be helpful to talk about this in our person metaphor. Imagine again you are the company. You’ve dressed the part and showed up at the party. Next, you maybe have a few too many and end up dancing on the table with a crowd of stunned onlookers. The experience your onlookers are having while you boogie down on the table (shock, hilarity, fascination, admiration, condemnation, etc) is your brand. See how it can get kinda messy? Everyone has a different experience of you, even if your identity is consistent throughout. Especially when “you” is a company, and your representatives in our society number in the hundreds or thousands. Every time a customer has an experience with one of your employees, it impacts your brand. Every time someone reads a review of you online, it affects your brand. Cumulatively, this makes up a collective experience… what the general public, your employees, and your partners think of as you. While your brand can’t be completely controlled, you can proactively put policies in place that help your employees influence and impact the public’s experience with you.