Debranding? Not really.

The city of Gainesville, FL, is using a new buzzword to describe its decision not to use a logo and tagline. The term is “debranding” and Fast Company has reported it as a trend:

It’s an idea called “debranding,” where the focus is not on any logo, tagline, or visual effect. “Instead of brands, real people and real tones of voice will become the interface between consumers and products again,” writes Jasmine De Bruycker in Co.Design in 2016. “That’s the heart of debranding.”

Somehow, someone sounds mired in the idea that a brand is a logo — or a logo and a tagline.

It’s not.

In fact, a logo is a “holding tank” for people’s feelings about a company, or a city for that matter. It’s a convenient, visible repository for all the emotional connections we feel about the thing the logo represents. And those emotional connections? That’s the brand.

So Gainesville is, in fact, very much “branded,” and in a smart way. They are most definitely not trying to remove their identity. Instead, they’re working hard to create one.

They clearly have a strong style guide and a consistent graphic program. They have a voice. They have a core message. They understand who they’re talking to. That consistent style and tone becomes their logo. If they do this right, and consistently, they will be instantly identified, differentiated from other cities, and effective in their positioning.

And they’ll have a brand. A powerful one.

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