Leveraging Symbolism Beyond the Logo Itself
Over time brand symbols take on a meaning and come to represent brand equity when brands don’t have the luxury of full explanation or expression. The symbols convey at a glance the totality of the brand to familiar audiences, as well as serve as an invitation to the uninitiated to discover more. Companies like AirBnB, Nike and Nestle leverage their corporate identities as symbols that embody and represent the strategic positioning of each respective brand. But there’s no need to limit symbolism to formal logos. In 1915, Coca-Cola designed a proprietary shape for its bottle—the foundational packaging for their core product—to convey the uniqueness and distinction that sets them apart from other purveyors of soft drinks. Drinking a Coke in a classic contour bottle enables consumers to admire, touch and drink from a container rich in a 100 year+ tradition. It’s a symbol that’s so proprietary that it became only the second package in history to be awarded a US trademark back in 1960. Not a message in a bottle, but a message that is the bottle!
Even when brand packaging isn’t its own registered trademark, it still can leverage the power of symbolism. If a consumer brand seeks to assert quality, it needs to have quality packaging. If the packaging is just average, the company risks having consumers conflate the quality of the packaging with the quality of the product. Few companies understand this concept better than Apple. The company creates an iconic sensory experience through its packaging that communicates the brand without the use of words or a logo — or even the product until the packaging reveals the treasures that dwell therein. Apple creates its packaging to be as visually appealing and satisfying to the senses as the device inside. Every box enjoys sturdy materials, elegant minimalist color, clean, simple and direct design that signify the Apple experience ahead for the consumer.
The idea of integrating symbolism throughout the customer experience even extends beyond visual components. In BMW’s pursuit of “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” the company thinks as hard about sound as they do about sight. Before they ever make it to the showroom floor, BMW doors undergo numerous refinements not only to make sure they open and close properly but to ensure each door makes the “right” sound to reflect the quality of the car. While BMW could make a car door that is close to silent when shutting, BMW knows there’s value in a certain type of “thunk” that symbolizes a well-constructed automobile.
What are some of your favorite ways brands use symbolism to reinforce and build their value?