What The Holidays Teach Us About Branding

Phillip Davis

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When it comes to creating and building a brand name, most companies feel compelled to file trademarks and establish “guidelines” to protect their image. Yet some of the most well known brands in the world today are holidays – wide open to use and abuse in the public domain. Despite being public property they still retain a high degree of brand consistency. For example, which holiday comes to mind when envisioning the colors green and red? How about orange and black? Many consumers would instantly recognize these as the colors of Christmas and Halloween. Beyond color combinations we have images - such as a bright green clover or a red colored heart. Again most consumers would accurately associate these with St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day. So without any trademark protection and no corporate marketing department to enforce brand standards, how is it that these events and holidays are so consistently represented?

The answer lies in our five senses. Unlike most company brand images, which exist statically as printed names and logos, the holidays are deeply anchored in our experiences, in the areas of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Christmas conjures the fresh scent of pine needles and the sound of cheerful carolers. Thanksgiving evokes the smell of pumpkin pie and the welcome taste of warm cider. In addition to the sensory stimulation, we associate emotions as well. Valentine’s Day stirs feelings of love and romance while New Year’s Day brings a sense of renewed hope and unity. And this holds true for countless holidays celebrated by various faiths and cultures worldwide. They are richly embedded in the fabric of our lives and are therefore woven deeply into our memories. It’s no wonder then that the holidays are easy to recall, categorize and associate. Through shared sensory reinforcement the holidays develop their own internal “brand” consistency, without the need for outside management and intervention.

So in comparison, take a look at your present business, product or service. Can it be identified with just a color, a symbol, a feeling? How can you create more texture to your company and brand by enriching it with sight, sound and emotion? The computer chip manufacturer Intel has done a wonderful job of creating a musical signature for their product. The familiar four-note melody adds another layer of identity to the company’s brand, making it easier to recall. UPS has wrapped itself in the color brown to add further recognition to their ad campaigns. Ask “What can Brown do for you?” and most consumers can identify the carrier without any assistance. Nexium has successfully marketed the “Purple Pill” in a way that allows the customer to communicate their interest to a physician – without having to recall the prescription name. For Double Tree hotels, fresh baked cookies greet weary travelers each night. Perhaps the best example of holiday-type branding is the food products company Newman’s Own, which was created for “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good. ” To date, the company created by actor Paul Newman has donated over $200 million to charities worldwide and gathered a loyal following. While other companies try to attract with a fancy label, Newman’s resonates of selfless giving.

So if your company were a holiday, how would it be celebrated? What would it sound like, look like, taste like, and feel like? What would be the mood and how would it be remembered? Then look for ways to infuse that feeling throughout the organization. Find new and innovative ideas to help permeate your customer’s experience. Connect with them using as many of the senses as possible and find that one common emotion you want them to feel when doing business with your firm. In the end you will create many more ways to remember your business. But more importantly you’ll create new reasons to celebrate it.

Phil Davis is president and owner of Tungsten Brand Marketing, a naming firm specializing in brand creation, product naming, tag line development, corporate identity and comprehensive brand repositioning. Phil's client list includes PODS, TeamLogicIT and Coghead.com to name a few. His complete client list and company naming philosophy can be viewed at PureTungsten.com


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