Some time ago, I referred to logos as avatars. Since then, many people have asked me why a different term is necessary - isn't "logo" descriptive enough?
A logo, according to Wikipedia for one, "is a graphical element." That's it. A logo is just a graphic, a picture, nothing more. In reality, the "logos" we think of carry so much more meaning than this. Seeing the Starbucks "logo" pulls up memories of roasting coffee, conversing with friends, and the warm atmosphere a Starbucks franchise represents. The Coca-cola "logo" likewise has strong links to a myriad of memories and mental associations.
Let me give you another example. NetZero is a well known Internet provider with an easily recognizable "Z" logo. What most of you might not know is that NetZero started as a FREE Internet company ... hence the "zero" in its name. Unfortunately, the company has moved away from this business model, and reputation, entirely. At the same time, it has kept the same logo because of it's associations with customer service, reliability, and low (though no longer non-existent) prices.
None of these examples is actually a logo. They are each examples of "avatars." An avatar is the descent or incarnation of a supreme being. In this case, I'm defining "avatar" to be an incarnation of a brand. Is the Coca-cola "logo" merely a graphical element, or is it an embodiment of the brand's personality, reputation, and relationship with its customers? Shouldn't this then be called an avatar instead of a logo?
There are several industries that use logos that truly are devoid of meaning beyond being the symbol on their letterhead. Think of your business and your competition; does your 'logo' represent your way of doing business? Or is it an empty vessel that is uselessly stamped on business cards and web pages?