Updated: Sep 7, 2020
I have always been fascinated as much by the why as the what and especially when it comes to the stories or in some cases legends behind brands. The spectrum of colors, styles, words, images, and icons is infinite but how have some organizations connected their history, purpose, or intent through their logos, and in some cases hidden secrets within?
Here are just some of the more interesting, or in some cases quirky stories behind some of the brands of today.
Ronseal: This was originally an advertising slogan from in the UK which then became a common phrase and still one I use today. It means that the name of something is an accurate description of its qualities. It is akin to the previously existing phrases 'by name and by nature' and 'it lives up to its name'.
It originated in a series of TV advertisements by the wood-stain and wood-dye manufacturer Ronseal first appearing in 1994. Their dilemma was that shoppers in DIY stores at the time were inundated with a myriad of choices which made the purchasing decision confusing. By simplifying the name of each product like, 'Quick Drying Wood Stain' they made that decision much easier for consumers, then they coined the phrase,
"It does exactly what it says on the tin!"
The FedEx logo in its current form has been visible to the world since its creation in 1994 when the company made the decision to move away from the long version of the name, Federal Express.
Having won numerous awards for a logo design with its use of negative space.
I have been looking at this logo for many years and it wasn't until recently, my twelve-year-old daughter pointed out to me the arrow hidden between the 'E' and the 'x' even existed. Very clever! Have you ever seen that before?
Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins, two brothers-in-law, started their separate ventures of selling ice-cream in 1948. In 1953 the now joint venture was named Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream. A local advertising agency recommended the '31®' logo, representing a flavor for every day of the month. The advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, is behind the present logo design, which cleverly inscribed 31 in the name. Do you see it?
Audi, ‘to listen' in Latin, was founded after August Horch was forced out of his former auto company, Horch. In 1932, an auto union was formed by the merger of Audi with Horch, DKW, and Wanderer. This merger represented by the four interlinked rings and the logo of today.
Another carmaker associated with luxury is Lexus but what are the origins of the brand name? It was the late 1980s and Toyota was keen to break into the lucrative luxury export to the U.S. market and thereby set about their task.
There are a couple of legends to the creation of the name.
The creative team had narrowed hundreds of names down to one favorite, Alexis but there was concern that it sounded like a human and not a car, and that one of the most popular TV shows of the day had a main character by the same name. After much deliberation, they dropped the 'A' and replaced the 'i' with a 'u'.
The second version of the legend is much more straightforward and perhaps out of the branding book of Ronseal:
"Luxury Exports to the U.S.: LEXUS"
Adidas is one of the world’s best-known sports brands. Many believe ‘ADIDAS’ stands for ‘All Day I Dream About Sports’. But this isn't true. It's actually taken from the name of the founder, Adolf Dassler. The logo has a three-striped mountain on top to inspire athletes to achieve ever great heights.
Staying with iconic sporting brands, Nike is one of the world's most valuable brands but what are its origins? Formerly Blue Ribbon Sports, founded in 1964 by Bill Bowerman, a track-and-field coach at the University of Oregon, and his former student Phil Knight. They opened their first retail outlet in 1966 and launched the Nike brand in 1972.
The company was renamed Nike, Inc., in 1978 and went public two years later. Twenty years later, Nike had retail outlets and distributors in more than 170 countries, and its logo, a curved check, the 'swoosh' is recognized throughout the world. In addition to the iconic logo and phrases such as 'Just Do It', the company adopted the name of Nike, from the Greek goddess of victory.
With a Starbucks on almost every corner, the vision of making quality coffee accessible to all has become today's reality. Back in the early 1970s, the founders brainstormed a list of words beginning with 'St' and eventually landed on 'Starbo' a mining town in the Cascade Range. From there, the group remembered 'Starbuck', the name of the chief mate in the book Moby Dick and hence the launch of another legend.
Ford, the pioneers of the mass-produced motor vehicle have endured as has its logo lasted the test of time but have you ever noticed the 'e' disguised in the swirl of the 'F'? Fe on the Periodic Table represents the element Iron, and in another term, Fe stands for Trust.
Apple's first logo depicted Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. This logo was immediately replaced by a rainbow apple. The motive behind a bitten apple was so that people don't confuse it with a cherry. And the colored stripes were there to make the logo more accessible, and to make it known that Apple II could generate graphics in color. Later the company adopted the monochromatic style logo.
Amazon is the most prominent online retailers in the world. The name denotes the vastness of the store directory. Also, there is an arrow that moves in the direction from ‘A’ to ‘Z’, hinting that the store has everything from ‘A’ to ‘Z’!
Whilst the need to express what a company does through its logo or brand may be important for some, the background story may be more obtuse. Often hidden within are the very roots of the organization as it stands today. The logo story contains the DNA, the founding intent, the evolution of the business, and an important connection with the past, the history of the company. It is these emotional connections that are important to not just telling the story to customers but the creation of your culture and the connection to your workforce too.
Does your company do what it says on the tin?
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