Powerful Icons For Small Business Branding

The Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel.

Apple’s bitten-into Apple.

TD Bank’s Green Chair (for my Canadian friends).

These are three different kinds of icons that these big businesses use in their brands. Let’s examine how they’re using them and what makes them so powerful – and see how we can apply those principles to small business branding.

I started out this post by looking up Wikipedia’s definition of icons. It was dry. Incredibly dry.

So, I’ll distill it for you:

Icons are symbols. They’re images of things that stand for something universally recognized.

They’re often representational of things – like animals, people or objects that have certain characteristics. They can also be more abstract – like the cross or a Valentine’s heart.

Let’s take a look at these three kinds of icons – how they work and how you can use them for small business branding.

  • The KFC Colonel. A person’s image can become an icon – especially if that person is known for something in particular. In this case, the Colonel is “the guy with the recipe”.

If your story is a major part of your brand, and you’re well-known, you can become an icon in your own brand. Person-based icons can be photos, or artistic renderings, like the current version of the colonel. In order to do this well, you’ll need to create a link between your image and what it means. To do this, say what you stand for often in your brand so that people recognize what you’re all about.

  • Apple’s Apple. Well, first of all, this makes name recognition easy, doesn’t it? If you’ve got a name like this, and your icon can repeat your name visually, then you’ll be able to create a visual anchor for your brand – tying the two together and doubling your repetition. That will get your name into people’s heads even more quickly.

As a special added bonus, the apple also has a meaning that takes this icon into happy symbolic territory: The apple means knowledge. It ties into a number of well-known stories, such as Adam & Eve in the garden, and the apple falling on Newton’s head, which was an early inspiration for the company.

  • TD Bank’s Green Chair. For many people, banking is time-consuming and uncomfortable. In the words of TD Bank’s Vice President Dominic Mercuri, “If a bank can make the experience of dealing with them as quick, simple, friendly and straightforward as possible, they’ll stand out from the others. And if that bank can actually build a brand that’s comfortable, then it will have an advantage that’s not only authentic and lasting, but nearly impossible to replicate.”

They’ve developed their icon campaign around the green lounge chair. The green is distinctive – makes it clear that it’s not just another chair. The lounge chair communicates that message of comfort. Plus, they get to have a lot of strategic fun with their chairs. They set up “rest stations” in malls over the holidays where you can sit in a green chair, put your feet up and sip hot chocolate. They’ve created an interview series where people sit in the green chairs and chat “up close” with the audience. It’s all very inviting and comforting. If you develop an icon, think about how you can use it in a fun way. Can you host a photo contest that encourages people to take photos with your icon? Can you carry it around and ask your clients and colleagues if you can photograph them with it? Can you create a little animation with your icon?

Consider using an icon in your next launch or in your small business branding to promote fun, recognizability and to give your brand a deeper meaning.

elf@elf-design.com' About Erin Ferree

Erin Ferree is a brand strategist and designer. She works with small businesses to create brands with substance and style that fit their businesses perfectly.
She's designed brands for hundreds of small business all over the world. Her brands help her clients attract their ideal clients, outshine their competition and make them unforgettable. She also works with small business owners to develop complete clarity about their brand positioning and to develop total brand clarity.
Her award-winning design work and her writing on design have been published in many books and periodicals.
Erin lives, cooks and plays tug-of-war with her dog Stanley in San Luis Obispo, California. Her website is http://www.brandstyledesign.com

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