Enduring symbols

ENDURING SYMBOLS

Managing the brand

Brand management is all about managing brand symbols. The name of the brand, the fonts used, the color of the pack and the logo, the shape of the packaging, and so on, are all symbols of the brand.

It is these symbols that are embedded strongly in the minds of even illiterate consumers. No wonder in many parts of the country, several brands are recognized only by their pack color.

If symbols can be used to create loyalty towards a nation or a religion or a political party, they can also be used to create loyalty towards brands. So how do we do that?

Latest neurological studies have shown human beings store most of their memories as symbols. That’s the reasons why all forms of communication are predominantly symbolic.

Since symbols have a strong impact on the lives of any organized community, there seems to be a certain amount of permanency about them. For example, the Catholic Church has made sure that the cross, one of the strongest religious symbols in the world, has looked the same across several countries in the world, over so many centuries. (Exceptions like the Marthoma cross used among the Syrian Christians in Kerala are few).

The symbols of strong communities remain unchanged despite several changes happening in that community. For example, China has moved far ahead of the days of the bloody revolutions to the world of capitalism, but its red national flag and several other symbols of the state remain untouched.

The rare times when symbols are tampered with, indicate a beginning of a change process where someone wants to erase past memories of a community in one go. This happens frequently during political revolutions or during the times of religious persecutions.

Most of today’s brand managers fail not in developing proper brand symbols but in their preservation. In the guise of making the

brand evolve with the times, packaging, brand colors and fonts are changed at the drop of a hat. Some brands even make this an annual ritual!

What’ the end result? At the mention of those brand names, no clear symbols emerge in the consumer’s brain. As a result, the loyalty for those brands is very weak.

Every brand manager has two options.

The first is to tinker round with their brand’s symbols as a convenient way to convince themselves and their bosses that they are doing lots of things to ‘manage’ their brand very well.

The second option is to believe that the best way to ‘manage’ the brand is to resist any changes to the brand symbols but focus on reinforcing these images strongly in the consumer’s mind.

The khadi tricolor that has remained unchanged for the past 59 years has a big lesson for all brand managers.

The name of the brand, the fonts used, the color of the pack and the logo, the shape of the packaging are all symbols of the brand. It is these symbols that are embedded strongly in the minds of even illiterate consumers. No wonder in many parts of the country, several brands are recognized only by their pack color.

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