Primal Branding Series #3 – Icon

Continuing with my series on Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. I have discussed in previous posts the creation story and the creed. This week, we move onto icons.

Icon is something that allows people to able to instantly identify your brand. The iconic yellow boarder lets people know that you are reading a National Geographic from a distance away. That iconic swoosh tells people that you are wearing Nike, even if the brand name is no where to be found.

Therefore, in essence, icon is the various physical / tangible attributes of your brand. However, these tangible attributes may very well evoke intangible feelings.

Women can instantly recognize a Tiffany box by its distinctive color. That color evokes a variety of emotions. That color is so important to the Tiffany brand that Tiffany trademarked it.

This is a good video on color, and how color could be applied to your personal brand.

YouTube video: What Color is Your Brand?

But, it is not just about color or logo. For example, could you recall all the logos / colors of all your utilities companies? There are countless forgettable logos out there. You could spend a lot of time creating one, and it would not resonate with your audience. Why? Because a logo, or color, or any other attribute cannot stand on its own. Like every other primal code, it needs to be incorporated into everything that you do.

Does that mean that you plaster your logo everywhere? YES!

But, is it ever so simple?

The fundamental question you need to ask is what truly symbolizes your brand in the minds of your audience. UPS is brown because UPS has brown trucks, brown uniform, brown everything. Swoosh is Nike because Nike put much advertising dollars toward building up the Swoosh. But it is all a very carefully orchestrated effort.

Allow me to make up an extreme example to illustrate my point.

You are a caterer. You painstakingly designed a logo that is an abstraction of a red pepper. It symbolizes so many things about your food. The red represents passion. The pepper is that little extra kick in your food. Also, the veggie represents the fresh ingredients that you use, etc. That logo is on everything. It is on your website. It is on your business card. It is even on your apron, which you wear to every event. You have spent much time networking in the community to build your business, and it has paid off. You get referrals after referrals. At this point, you do not even need to call people. People call you.

In fact, you are so successful that your phone number is just on phones / laptops as a contact at this point. People can pull up your number in an instant.

But, this also means that people are not really looking at your business card or website.

People do see your apron though. Yes, the bright yellow one with the red pepper logo properly embroidered just above your chest.

Let me tell you how this story ends – the red pepper may be your logo, but it is not your icon, but the yellow apron is.

As for myself, I have found this to be the hardest part to fully activate. I have yet fully developed the look and feel of my personal brand. The first and foremost icon is myself, which makes me wonder if there is a need of a logo. My picture would essentially become my logo. I also try to incorporate a tidbit of my real life into my online representation via the coffee mug images. At the office, my coffee mug is about the twice the size of a normal coffee mug. In all likelihood, any meetings that would take place outside the official office setting would be at a coffee shop. So, I thought coffee would be a reasonable icon to associate my brand with… However, I welcome any suggestions you may have regarding how I could better activate this part of the primal code –  How I could have better icons?

A side-by-side comparison of a regular mug and my type of mug at the office.


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