Smash Your Brand


A few years ago I ran across this Fast Company article and felt it important to share. I’ve had a few conversations lately with company execs about the importance of this branding concept, so I thought it was time to share this again. The article can serve as an introduction to building a memorable brand, as well as be a great reminder for every brand strategist.

Below is an excerpt, but I encourage you to follow the link for the rest of Martin Lindstrom’s article.

“The term “smashable” dates back to 1915, when the Coca-Cola company asked a designer in Terre Haute, Indiana, to design a bottle that consumers could still recognize as a Coke bottle, even if someone flung it against a brick wall and it shattered into a hundred pieces. Coke is a smashable brand. So are Guinness, Ferrari, Harley-Davidson and, of course, Apple (take a sledgehammer to an iPad and you’ll know what I mean). Which suggests that the logo as we once knew and loved it–from Citibank’s Scowling Umbrella (I don’t know what else to call it), to Nike’s Swoosh, to Starbucks’s Whoever-The-Heck-She-Is–needs to be re-considered if it’s going to play any role in future brand-building.

Let’s do a little experiment: Erase the logo from every single one of your brand identifiers–products, stationary, signage. Close your eyes, now reopen them. Is there anything left? Would consumers still recognize those items as belonging to your brand? Look at your packaging, your copy, your colors, your design, your font, your spacing. Do any of them convey your brand’s identity? Or without a logo are you adrift and bailing water?”

While I do not agree with all of the comments made about logos, what is clear is that a logo alone is not a brand. It is not a pretty and cool mark that creates a brand. BUT, it is an important clear and simple communication that can create a first, then memorable, impression in people’s minds. But, keep in mind this:

Your logo alone is not your brand. You are. Remember everything speaks.

The personality of the organization, the physical environment and every experience, including the online experience, the primary messaging, the consistent reinforcement of the verbal and visual identity, use of color, font, style, attitude… Have you defined that and rigorously communicate and reinforce it?

Starbucks is actually a great example. While the tweak of the logo was controversial, the Starbuck’s experience extends far beyond the logo. (yes, they have taken heat recently and refocused) Also, Apple. Admittedly I am an Apple geek – but the experience of opening a new product – the packaging, the first screen, the ease of sync, are all part of the Apple brand.

Think about your most memorable brands. Without the logo, would you still know who is sending the message? Remember, the logo is an entry point to a brand. But a brand is experienced through every interaction on behalf of your organization.

Ask yourself, have you created a brand that communicates your essence and your vision, or a cool logo that you really thought was cool? Are you smashable? Do you live your brand and create an experience that is memorable beyond one image?

I leave you with this from Martin’s article:

“So reserve a brick wall, cock your arm, aim, and begin smashing your brand. While you’re at it, smash your website, to ensure your brand remains consistent via your web pages’ navigation, style, ease, and/or special features. Now ask yourself: does my brand “own” this cross-sensory experience, from web to wireless to PDA, right down to the bricks-and-mortar product I’m gripping in my right hand? If not, your carefully crafted logo might as well not even exist.”

Ready to gain traction?

Take the Next Step