Influential Brand Elements: Symbolism
This post is a part of our 10 Elements of an Influential Brand series where we cover the essentials to building a powerful brand. Follow this series to learn how to attract an audience, keep them engaged, and turn them into loyal fans.
In the information age, there is an abundance of products and services for consumers to choose from. So there’s an urgency for brands to differentiate themselves and stand out.
This is also the case for musicians, whose work lives alongside millions of other artists, all competing online for the ears of beloved listeners.
One solution for standing out in such a busy, competitive world, is to establish symbols for your brand.
Historically, symbols have been used in religions, ancient civilizations, and more recently, corporations. Over the past century, businesses have used symbols to differentiate themselves from the competition, establish familiarity, signify quality, and to build trust.
Importance of Meaning
In order to develop successful symbolism for your brand, you need to instill meaning that can be communicated to your brand community.
For example, well recognized brands like McDonald’s and Audi have built symbols that immediately convey history and meaning. Within seconds of seeing their symbols, consumers know what to expect.
The McDonald’s golden arches are conveniently placed alongside roads to catch people’s attention. Originally they were used to attract drivers as they saw the arches in the distance. They were new and unique, piquing people’s interest, drawing them to McDonald's.
Now, when people see the arches, they know that it’s a place for them to grab a quick bite that will be consistent with their past experiences. The symbolism becomes personal and can trigger an emotional reaction as many people have childhood memories tied back to eating at McDonald’s, receiving a toy and enjoying a burger and fries with their family. The arches tell a story without the consumer even recognizing.
On the other hand, Audi’s 4 ring symbol functions as a status symbol and differentiator from the average. It indicates that any Audi car is luxurious and comes with features that are desirable beyond the basic functions of a common car. It also tells consumers to expect an automobile with high quality equipment, the best performance, comfort, the best technology, and a sleek and beautiful design.
How Do You Convey Meaning?
First, think about the most important and noticeable point where your fans engage with your brand.
For McDonald’s, and most fast-food spots, they’ve traditionally caught people on the road as they’re driving. So it made perfect sense to build symbolism that instantly communicated a message and triggered an action to consume, without fully distracting drivers from the road.
Photo Credit: GQ
For an artist, it’s not just your music, but it could be a specific aspect of your music or your overall public image. For example, the Weeknd symbolized his hair as it became iconic. Even if his hair was cropped from him, you’d be able to recognize it and associate it with his high-flying falsettos over dark production, almost as if you can instantly hear his vivid descriptions of sex, drugs and partying.
One of the most obvious ways to build a symbol is to create a logo. For any brand, logos are crucial for quickly communicating everything about your brand to connect with your fans. Most importantly, they tell fans what to expect in terms of a product or experience.
What Makes a Successful Logo
The best symbols embody all aspects of the brand, including its message, value proposition, and culture. They should easily resonate with an audience and trigger a connection to other elements of the brand instantly.
Logos become visual shortcuts for communicating thoughts, emotions, values, and missions rather than a long verbal or written explanation.
A successful logo engages fans in a way that allows them to own the symbol themselves. For instance, without words, a logo should tell a story about your brand and help audiences identify where your brand fits within their lives. When your fans proudly wear and display a logo, they express their interests, beliefs, personalities, and identify with your brand’s community.
If you can nail this, then your brand can become infectious and spread from one fan to thousands as they interact with their friends and family.
There are endless ways to creatively build symbolism into your overall brand strategy. Just remember to build meaning into it and ensure that your core fans can immediately recognize and identify with that meaning in a way that’ll make them act and engage with your content.
Also, make sure to differentiate yourself from other artists by establishing an emotional value within your symbolism. Your symbols are an emotive communication tool, meaning that it should strike an emotional reaction from people or convey a message to them.