There is fascinating new thinking on what makes a brand a super brand. It is an “exceptional system of signs.”
A fascinating article caught my eye in Catalyst magazine, 1/2020. Brands use signs to influence consumers. They represent a product or service but they also mean something within the consumer’s culture. And exceptional system of signs will represent a super brand. That super brand makes product or service seem like “an old friend”, familiar, interesting and reassuring. The signs in the brand must point to cultural symbols that consumers like. The article gives the example of a red-and-white checked table cloth. If this sign is used well, it can elevate it to become a super brand. Why? That’s because a checked table cloth or a sunflower image are positive, homely and familiar in many cultures. Brands use these signs because they know consumers already like them. They do not have to be complex or multi-layered, they should just be well-chosen.
How should we go about creating a super brand from these important signs? Choose them carefully, no-one wants to see tired, cliched signs in a brand that’s trying to be fresh. Signs can be visual, they can also be sonic. The McDonald’s jingle is a good example, as is the Nike whoosh.
Test the sign
The brand is a piece of valuable property. So if you include signs in it then you need to test them first. The article has a fascinating suggestion that I hadn’t heard before. Imagine the same sign, logo or slogan used 100 years ago. Would it have worked in the 1920s? That’s a good test. If it does, then the sign will probably work in 100 years from now.
A super brand lives a long time
The final piece of advice is to believe in the brand for the long term. In other words, do not constantly tweak it. Tweaking often reveals lack of confidence and that isn’t a sign of a super brand.
Here is the book on which the article was based https://www.waterstones.com/book/super-signs/sam-hua/nan-hua/9781912555185