Visual Brand Power

Posted by on February 6th, 2012

I recently came across a video, Fresh Impressions on Brand Marks (from my 5 year old), that is absolutely fascinating – in that it provides incredible insight into the power of a visual brand, even at the earliest stages of human development.

There’s no shortage of scholarly research on this subject. The Center for a New American Dream reports that babies as young as six months of age can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots; brand loyalties can be established as early as age two;  and by the time children head off to school, most can recognize hundreds of brand logos. Let’s steer clear of the debate about the morality of marketing to children this young. Instead, focus on what these findings say about how early we can process not only the link between the mark and the product, but also the more subtle associations between the mark and our feelings and experiences, and the various attributes it is designed to evoke.

This video gets to the heart of the matter without a lot of “marketing-speak” or footnotes and citations from researchers, professors or other assorted experts / smarty pants. This little girl tells us all we need to know about great visual brand expressions:

  1. Successful brand imagery and logos are strong enough to stand on their own, even without the brand name. At five, this little girl most likely can’t read but she knows that the stylized “D” is for Disney, the Starbuck’s logo means coffee, the Apple is from the Apple Store, and X-box is on the TV control at Ryan’s house.
  2. A strong mark is closely wed to the overall brand experience. She associates the Pepsi logo with nights out for pizza, the Chili’s logo is spicy, and Gerber is for babies. The logo design is simple and the relationship to the product and service are clear.
  3. A great logo elicits an emotional response. The symbol alone is enough to evoke feelings, memories and perceptions. The sheer speed with which she identified the Disney logo speaks directly to this. Also, the way she talks about the G.E. logo as the place where her grandpa works demonstrates the emotional relationship she has forged with the mark.
  4. A strong mark draws associations with key brand attributes. Even logos she doesn’t recognize convey meaning. The Bank of America logo “looks like an American flag,” the Republican party logo “looks like a parade elephant,” the Google Chrome logo “looks like a beach ball,” and the Boeing logo “looks like outer space with a shooting star and a planet.” Without any knowledge or background on any of these companies, she’s able to draw very specific conclusions about what they are all about.

Visual recognition and drawing meaning from what we see are key survival skills that all of us begin honing right from birth. The response is automatic and that’s why it is so important that companies – whether they sell coffee or diapers – get their visual branding right.