As I stare forward at my computer, trying to pull the perfect words out of my brain, my eyes can’t help but be drawn to the mark at the bottom of the monitor. It’s sleek, simple, and black.
But what does an apple have to do with my computer? Absolutely nothing, of course. What I’m looking at doesn’t represent fruit. It’s a symbol for Apple computers. And, much like it’s logo, Apple has come to symbolize beautiful design and cutting-edge technology.
So what then is brand symbolism? Well, a brand is the audience’s collective opinion about a certain company or organization. Therefore, brand symbolism is what that company or organization actually represents to its audience.
Take, for example, Levi’s Go Forth advertising campaign. This video in particular is full of symbolism, from the gravelly audio and black-and-white video to the subjects and actions depicted in the commercial. It’s not until the end that you find out it’s an advertisement for Levi’s, but by then you’re already receptive to the brand symbolism: freedom, individuality, prosperity, and other inherently American ideals. The ultimate goal of the advertisement is for the audience to apply these qualities to the Levi’s brand and feel a need to purchase its products—thereby absorbing the same qualities.
Symbols allow you to say more with less—a picture is worth a thousand words, so to speak. When a brand becomes a symbol to the audience—whether good or bad—a shortcut is created to a more unified understanding of the brand.
It’s always important to establish brand symbolism for the benefit of your audience, so they have a quick idea of who you are and what you do—in turn you are able to mean something to them beyond the surface level.