Five Characteristics Of Iconic Brands And What It Means To Be Iconic In The Digital Age

Apple, the most valuable brand according to the Forbes survey has come to symbolize the era of “digital disruption”, often disrupting the category to create a proposition that resonates with the audience while cannibalizing its own products, to disrupt the category that it operates in. Microsoft on the other hand has stuck to the staple, Office and Windows products. The two brands are at the divergent end of spectrum and yet are iconic for ushering in newer products that revolutionized computing in everyday personal and work lives, and lead the pack for being the world’s most valuable brands. Here is a video that traces the evolution of Microsoft.

Five Characteristics of Iconic Brands and What It Means to be Iconic in The Digital Age
Iconic Brands Are Meaningful

Most iconic brands establish a unique connect that is rooted in the product benefit  with a vision, of how a product could answer a specific unmet need better than the existing alternatives, that exhibits itself in the core promise of the brand.  Meaningful brands look at a specific unmet need and combine the benefit of their brand to serve the need that is reflected in the brand symbolism. The Brand symbolism for the digital age, serves the purpose of reminding consumers about the brands benefits in the medium and network of choice.

Coca-Cola, GE, Facebook, McDonald’s and Samsung that feature in the top ten brands have effectively symbolized the purpose of the brand while making a meaningful difference in the lives of the customers, with engagement that resonates with digitally empowered consumers and moreover have continually “Refreshed” the connect. Audiences are seeking newer ways to connect with the brands and for brands to be meaningful in the digital age, they have to continually refresh the connect with newer experiences that come alive digitally.

Facebook one of the Top Ten Brands has created a meaningful purpose of bringing people together and sharing moments with friends by focusing on the most engaged audiences and creating newer ways such as “Video Sharing” on Facebook Messenger to refresh the connect it has with a diverse audience.

Brands that have established a connect  with audiences have often taken the brand purpose to translate into refreshing digital brand experiences.

Red Bull, for example, focuses all of its events on the idea of uplifting mind and body, offering both a spectacle and an unparalleled experience that is true to the brand’s purpose of bringing unimaginably risky, dangerous and daunting experiences to life.

Oreo has successfully established its digital presence as an iconic brand with sensory rituals entailing eating, sharing and now playing with Oreo to create emotional and memorable engagement that resonates with the audience. Most Branding for Oreo entails using the round cookie shape as the integral piece of communication that reminds customers about the sensory taste of eating a cream filled sandwich center packaged in a dark embossed cookie.

Iconic Brands develop identity myths that answer People’s concerns and anxieties

Iconic Brands that have answered the unmet needs in a way that is better than the alternatives available have successfully built identity myths that go to answer the fears and anxieties of the customers by engaging audiences with symbolic messaging that reinforces the brands positioning and creates a cohesive belief that resonates with the Brands purpose or promise.

Kick your feet up. Stay awhile. #betterforit

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

Twitter and Dove partnered during the Academy Awards with a campaign that sought to answer the concerns women have about their looks with #SpeakBeautiful campaign, that Dove followed up with #ChooseBeautiful campaign.

Iconic Brands Are Contemporary

Iconic brands are instantly recognizable above others. A brand with powerful sensory cues has an intrinsic advantage over others. Those cues ensure that positive associations come readily to mind and are linked to the right brand. Provided the same recognition cues are featured, Brands can Balance the authentic with the contemporary. In the Digital age, this could mean creating content where media vehicle differentiates the brand experience for audiences to look forward to the next best way of connecting with the brand.

Iconic brands Stay Focused

Iconic Brands stay focused on brand’s purpose or core promise, the brand personality, and its unique set of sensory and symbolic properties. With Digital you have the possibility of using different brand assets to amplify your message across networks. Use brand assets to create a significant bond with your audience and amplify your message across all potential touch points.

Iconic Brands Offer A Compelling Brand Experience

A powerful brand experience that makes the brand recognizable for the value that it brings with the value that a consumer perceives about the brand while fulfilling the brand promise sets apart a truly iconic brand. Apple is seen to deliver a compelling brand experience with the design first approach, with a remarkable product  with its sleek design and detailing that sets the Apple products apart from the competition. For your brand to be iconic in the digital age the branding has to reflect the compelling brand experience delivered by your brand with users preferring the product above the competitive offering. This is beyond Brand Symbolism where the brand experiences are curated to fulfill a brand promise.

Source: How To Build An Iconic Brand by Douglas Holt and “Perspectives” Millward Brown

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