Icon status: How those at the top of the heap are doing it, and how start-ups are tackling it

Posted: February 16, 2016

What makes a brand iconic? Is there a magic formula that is true across countries and across categories – and if so, how can the magic be bottled? Brand and marketing consultancy, Added Value, looks at the defining characteristics of iconic brands and highlights some stand-out examples of iconic activity.

  • The human face of Tesla

In the past, it was Henry Ford, Walt Disney and JW Marriott; more recently, we have the likes of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Bill Gates. A brand can be propelled to the top of customers’ minds by having a charismatic and brave leader at its helm that is not afraid to talk about their ideas and vision. Elon Musk is an electrifying example, who for many Americans has re-ignited the belief in the visionary power of human invention. Just this month he took to Twitter to personally hunt down new Tesla engineers (in-between tweeting images showing what a potential mission to Mars could look like for SpaceX in partnership with NASA). Not to mention trains, energy and automobiles.

Planet Mars with moon, illustration

Planet Mars with moon, illustration

  • Nike staying connected to culture

Nike’s share of the U.S. athletic shoe market is estimated at 62% and recent tech innovations including the ultra-lightweight uppers in the Nike Flyknit shoes are keeping the brand firmly on its throne. Last month we were reminded of just how closely knit Nike has been to pop culture over the years – October 21st marked the date that Marty McFly crashed into the future in ‘Back to the Future’. His self-lace-up sneakers were designed by a team at Nike and the brand is going to release limited edition pairs for charity.

young fitness woman runner running at forest trail

Young fitness woman runner running at forest trail

  • Under Armour challenging the titans

With giant incumbents such as Nike and Adidas, it would be easy to assume that opportunities for challenger brands would be limited. But we can no longer ignore Under Armour – a brand that launched the ‘I will what I want’ campaign this year featuring ballerina Misty Copeland and model Gisele Bundchen to entice a female audience. The campaign championed women defying expectations and ignoring judgement, and resulted in a 28% sales increase. The brand is also steaming ahead with tech acquisitions including MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal. An iconic brand in the making.

  • Playboy as design icon

Playboy recently announced it will stop publishing nude photos in its magazine – a move prompted by the belief that the internet has made nudity outdated. It has been reported however, that the company makes most of its money by licensing its logo (deals include apparel and beauty products). Playboy’s own research has shown that the logo is one of the most recognizable worldwide (alongside Apple and Nike), and some say it has achieved design icon status – celebrated for being a playful visual metaphor that has transcended the brand’s adult magazine roots.

  • Lego tops Christmas lists

The new Trend App from IBM Watson has analyzed conversations on social media, blogs and websites and predicts that the Lego Star Wars set will be the hottest Christmas gift in 2015. Lego carries much nostalgia for people who grew up with the brand, and while some refer to it now as the ‘Apple of toys’, it has stayed true to its original product and philosophy. Their latest innovation is a fun pair of slippers that prevent injury from walking on Lego pieces.

  • Google’s collaborative community

Google’s new logo design was intended to give the brand a friendly demeanor rather than being known as an ‘all-knowing, all-powerful entity’. But it’s the way that Google behaves that shapes its status in the minds of consumers. Google developed image recognition tech in Google Photos to allow people to search for photos of their pet bulldog without the need to tag photos with searchable text. The brand has now released the tech as open source to allow the machine learning community to experiment directly with the code.

  • HP uses The Force

The latest ad from HP ties in to the new Star Wars film and builds on HP’s brand platform: “Keep Reinventing”. The ad features a teenager building his own R2-D2 with the help of his HP laptop. He then programs the droid to deliver an invitation to the girl down the road for a date. The ad transcends the function of HP technology and speaks to imagination and invention: “In the Star Wars universe, anyone who has passion, ingenuity and technology has the force to reinvent,” says Antonio Lucio, CMO at HP. “In our world, this same truth applies.”

  • The Disney experience

The viral video charts of 2015 awarded second place to Disney’s US shopping mall experience. The video showed shoppers walking past a large white screen where the silhouettes of Disney characters would appear and follow along like shadows. Buzz Lightyear and Mickey Mouse mirrored the movements of passersby, even getting into a dance off. The video highlights the iconic status of the Disney characters – instantly recognizable by just their shadows – and the brands’ consistent effort to create playful and fun experiences.

ends