Importance of Symbols in Branding
Branding is the use of various promotional tools and messages to convey an intended image of your company and products to customers. Symbols are extremely important to the effective entrenchment of your brand. Promotional symbols include various words, phrases, images, characters and other visual depictions or sounds that connect customers to your brand.
One of the first symbols you build for your company or a given product is its name. Selecting an appropriate and well-branded name carries long-term implications. Swedish company IKEA is named with the initials of Ingvar Kamprad, who founded the company in 1943, and the first letter of his farm name and hometown. This provides symbolic meaning to the company's emphasis on affordability and social and environmental responsibility.
Logos and images are key symbols in branding. They offer a visual representation of the greater meaning behind your brand. Though challenging, getting customers to immediately recognize your logo or other visual images and interpret their meaning is critical. This is especially true in print ads where customers may take only a brief look at your ad. Since you have limited time to get a message across, showing off your product or logo allows for a rapid message impression and impact.
Slogans or taglines are word phrases used to help project the company's image. Though often used synonymously, slogans typically refer to long-term phrases, whereas taglines are specific to given marketing campaigns, which may last weeks, months or years. Pepsi-Cola has used a variety of taglines over time, including "The Choice of a New Generation," "Be Young, Have Fun, Drink Pepsi," and "Generation Next" to brand itself as the hipper, cooler, more youthful soft drink choice relative to Coca-Cola, which often emphasized nostalgia in its branding.
Along with logos, companies often use other visual depictions or characters to tell stories and build brands. The AFLAC duck, originally voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, helped launch the company from an unknown to a household name. Progressive auto insurance uses a character named Flo in its TV commercials. The Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald and the Marlboro Man are among other iconic character symbols that have enhanced or are enhancing company brands.