According to wikipedia’s definition:
“A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols.
Symbols are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles of conception for all human knowledge. Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the grounds upon which we make judgments.”
Let’s just think about this for a moment.
ALL communication is achieved by the use of symbols.
Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live and are the grounds upon which we make judgements.
In other worlds, we see the world in terms of symbols and communicate our understanding of the world through symbols.
More than that, they enable us to make connections and carry concepts across boundaries – a lion as a symbol of strength, for instance, or the colour red as danger or passion, a flower for growth and so on – and symbols speak to us at a deep, philosophical level.
This is of fundamental importance to the role of brands.
What the truly successful brand does is create a universe of symbols around itself which speak to its purpose, its vision and its promise to customers.
These are deeply important in people’s perceptions and create a “drawer in the mind” which contains all the symbolic signals they have received about you – from your logo, to colours, to tone of voice, to advertising messages to how you respond to enquiries and so on and so on.
Right back in the early days, a “brand” was a symbol on cattle which reflected the ranch they came from. Over time, that symbol also came to represent what people thought of that rancher – was he reliable, was he honest – and that symbol could be projected through communications to build reputation and attract people.
If we see the world around us in symbols, and if we use symbols to facilitate understanding, it follows that perception is everything and everything is perception.
Everything you do, everything you say and everything you use in communications must be consistent, it must say something about you and your company and – above all – it must be honest and reward our interaction with you.
Symbols are about trust.
So the next time you are considering a “brand refresh” or a logo change or a change to how customers access your services, be aware of the depth of your brand and the conscious and unconscious impressions you will be attempting to re-engineer.