Brands are symbols with emotion and meaning attached. The difference between a symbol and branding is like the difference between a stop sign and a peace sign. The stop sign is purely a symbol that has come to be universally recognized for one thing. It is void of any emotional connection. The peace sign has emotional attachments that have defined its meaning. For some, it’s a personal memory of an experience of anti-war activism, and for others, a time in American history of rebellion and counterculture.
When I heard about Google for the first time, I had no idea what the heck a “Google” was. Their web page was different — a simple blank white page with a search box, a few lines of copy, and the Google logo. After a few minutes, I quickly associated this very different name with a comprehensive, simple, and fast internet search. Designers attach visual language (texture, color, pattern, form, etc.) to help express the meaning or purpose behind the brand.
I later learned the Google name was derived from a mathematical term for a number equal to 1 followed by 100 zeros spelled googol. Their name represented the millions of results that one simple word search could turn up. They incorporated the image of googol with all the o’s in their logo at the bottom of the page which became the iconic page index. They were initially named Backrub. Why Backrub? Because that is “how” they were able to develop the revolutionary search engine. They built an algorithm that would “go back and scrub” all the website contents, index it and make it ready for searching. The name backrub made sense to programmers and computer geeks but not the audience they were trying to capture. They wisely renamed themselves Google in 1997. The definition of the word googol, their purpose of managing “exponentially” (pun intended) growing content on the internet, and the connection to the millions of search results are congruent, and all supported who they were and why you would want to use them. It wasn’t different for different’s sake. Or, like many businesses naming their company after its founders — If so, we could have been searching the web on “Page & Brins” all these years.
There is only one Google, but sometimes companies find themselves in a commodity market with a vast amount of choices for potential customers. Then, the brand is like bread. There are hundreds of types of bread. Some are just labeled “Wheat,” and you can get them anywhere. Other loaves of bread are unique, like Dave’s Killer Bread, which was started in 2005 by an ex-convict who learned how to make bread in prison. After only ten years in business, Dave’s became the best-selling organic seeded bread in the United States and was purchased for $275 million. So when your brand is like bread, you better be something different, say you’re different, call yourself something different and deliver greatness. Be bold. Be your unapologetic self, then work with a branding professional to make your verbal and visual brand items the full expression of your brand.
On a psychological level, brands reinforce what we believe or what we want to believe about ourselves. They are a sign of who we are or have become. Are we Mercedes people or Honda people? Are we Apple Watch people or Rolex people? Brands become a part of our lifestyle, providing influence on our decisions, affect our mood, and changing the way we are perceived by others.
Brands are symbols. They are symbols over time and continue to accumulate meaning and purpose. A business’s identity, name, logo, and all verbal and visual support should be congruent with its purpose. When people quickly and clearly understand why a company exists, the business starts attracting the right people for the right reasons – both internally and externally. Does your company’s identity represent its value? Why does your company exist?
Start with purpose. Build a brand on purpose.
Read More about clear communication of purpose for your business.