Building a Brand into an Icon - Part 2

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Posted Feb 28, 2012
Susan Gunelius

How to Develop an Iconic Brand

In Part 1 of the Building a Brand into an Icon series, you learned what an iconic brand is and how it differs from an identity brand. If you missed Part 1, follow the preceding link to read it. Now, it's time to learn how to develop a brand into an icon by building emotional involvement in your brand persona.

volkswagen beetle iconic brand

As you learned in Part 1 of this series, there are two fundamental ways to build a brand icon: organic evolution and developing consumer perceptions through effective marketing. Of course, the success of either method is always at the hands of consumers because consumers build brands, not companies. However, you can help the process along the way.

Developing Emotional Involvement

All iconic brands have something in common -- emotional involvement. That means consumers are emotionally invested in the brand in some way. Often, the brand fills a void in their lives or provides them with experiences that make them feel emotionally connected to the brand and the sub-culture of people who experience it together.

There is perhaps no better way to develop emotional involvement in a brand than through storytelling. The social web provides a perfect place to do this through blogs, YouTube videos, and so on. Combine that social storytelling with traditional storytelling through ads and marketing materials, and you've set the groundwork to develop emotional involvement in your brand.

Some brands are a natural fit for storytelling. Nonprofits, for example, use storytelling extremely well. Other brands have to develop stories to enhance consumer perceptions of the brands. In Part 1 of this series, I explained how Apple did this through its commercials that created a perceived sub-culture within the computer market. Harley Davidson's emotional involvement happened organically, but the company heightened that emotional involvement and fed into those emotions through advertising that spoke of freedom and camaraderie.

Bottom-line, there are many ways to develop an emotional connection between your brand and consumers. Without that connection, there is no chance for your brand to develop into an icon.

Defining the Brand Persona


Stories can also be used to give your brand a distinct personality. Would you rather hang out with Microsoft or Apple? Camry or Mustang? Each brand has a personality that people can identify with and relate to. Consumers believe that these brand personas reflect their own personalities.

By self-identifying with a brand, consumers open themselves up to becoming emotionally involved in it and ultimately, experiencing it with others. If you can't self-identify with Apple, you'll never be part of the Apple sub-culture. That's the first step in building a brand icon -- giving it a persona that people can self-identify with.

Think of it this way -- if a person doesn't have a personality, there is little chance for anyone to become emotionally involved with that person. The same is true for your brand. If your brand doesn't have a personality, it's nearly impossible to build emotional involvement between consumers and your brand.

This brand persona is the cornerstone of your brand's identity. Without it, your brand cannot evolve into an icon because people don't know how to relate to it. Therefore, you need to understand who your audience is and what matters to them, so you can segment your audience and develop a brand persona that will position your brand for maximum success.

In Part 3 of the Building a Brand into an Icon series, you'll learn more about conducting market research to identify your audience segments so you can develop a brand persona and effectively build emotional involvement in your brand. In the meantime, you can follow the link to read Part 1: What Are Brand Icons?

Images: Flickr, Flickr

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