Super Branding by Creating Symbols

Welcome at Thinking with me. — Johanna Woh

Last Christmas I was in Germany, in Dresden to be exact, to visit my boyfriend’s family. We already had days of feasts at my family’s house, in Austria and continued the food-odyssey there. It is always good to see my family in-law and one evening my boyfriend, his grandpa and I were talking about history-related topics — well to be honest, it was more them than me, due to my lack of proficiency in this field, but I do love to earwig when those two intelligent people chat.

One thing I picked up and which really attracted my attention was a quote from his grandpa:

„…if you want to destroy someone, destroy his symbols…“

Immediately I drew pictures in my mind. Two things:

1. Notre Dame

2. Stickers

What do those two things have in common?

When Notre Dame was on fire, people cried, social media went mad and rich people donated millions over millions to restore this ancient French building. After that, critical voices, opinions, notes and news all around the world responded to those actions and reactions. What happened? People became furious because a building get so much attention in the news and raises millions of money in just seconds (well no, okay I think it was two days or something, but you get my point right?) compared to human organizations or other types of human states of emergency, who are begging for years for some small sums of money to safe the lives of children. On the one hand, I really understand the reason behind people’s frustration about the vast Notre Dame money-contributions.On the other hand, if you put things into perspective the donors’ arguments are legit too.

But let’s try to understand French people and people who felt affected by that fire accident. Why did people cry? Why was that such a tragedy? And why were there human beings donating millions for some old concrete?

I will tell you why.

Notre Dame is a super symbol.

This building stands for so much more than just a cathedral. Within the walls of Notre Dame merge history, architecture, literature and many more themes and values of France. Notre Dame is a flagship for France. Small damages to the church caused by fire, earthquake, or other external causes are deeply and intensely felt by French people and others who feel connected to French culture. People feel offended.

To keep France alive they have to keep their culture alive in order to keep their heritage alive and therefore they have to keep their symbols alive.

How would you react if your country’s landmark burns down? How emotional would you become — and be honest? I am pretty sure it would touch you more than expected.

How can we implement this observation into branding?

The reverse meaning of the quote „…if you want to destroy someone, destroy his symbols…“ means, if they can destroy you, you are alive and to be alive you need symbols. (alive in this context meaning „perceived”)

Keep your symbols alive.

So what about the stickers?

Stickers are a nice try, or let’s call them a basic mechanism, for branding, to create symbols for your brand and place them all over your (potential) territory. You place them with a quantity approach, but people will notice them subtle — the movie „focus“ with Will Smith and Margot Robbie is based on that concept. By creating symbols, small and or huge ones, you build yourself a great foundation with a lot of resources. And Notre Dame is like a massive sticker for France and their people with powerful symbolism and if it gets destroyed, French people feel destroyed too.

When you own your own symbols, it’s important to maintain and develop them, otherwise…

„…if you want to destroy someone, destroy his symbols…“

Pictures by unsplash.

Branding is all about symbols

Strong brands have their reminders, their connotation-anchors everywhere in different forms: a pictogram or a certain sound symbol or like a distinct handshake or just a really really definite tonality of a sentence. Creating symbols is like framing (already existing) things or adding a new meaning.

If I ask you to tell me the first association that comes to your mind when you hear the word „apple“. What would it be? Pretty sure most people, especially the younger ones would say „iPhone“ instead of „fruit“ or „healthy“ or „an apple a day keeps the doctor away“. So Apple did a great job to change the symbolic meaning of a healthy and famous fruit.

Screenshot from Google.

Tip: So try to drop symbols along your targets group’s customer journey. Where can you build and add a little reminder? And try something else, than just stickers ;)

And now let’s think without me.

Thanks, Johanna



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