Does symbolism work in brand communication, Edelman's Arshya Harjani shares her views

Brands are constantly searching for better ways to communicate their value proposition without getting stuck in the trenches of abstract vernacular and terminology. With the growth of different products and services, brands are under increasing pressure to stand out, be clear about what they offer, and create an emotional connection. 

Arshya Harjani, senior account executive, Edelman India

Symbolism is a powerful marketing tool that helps brands convey complex messages in an indirect way.

Brands use this concept extensively in their communications to bring larger social issues to light or connect their brand to an alternate meaning/feeling. A big part of symbolism is capturing the right emotion to build that connect.

Brands that master emotion consistently are better at influencing behavior and decision-making. If emotion targeted is done through carefully coordinated design strategies it can help to define and build strong long-term customer relationships.

So, in a nutshell…

The tool thrives on Relatability, emotional connection, or a story. In its essence, Symbolism creates meaning which evokes emotion and drives behavior

Use of Symbolism in Brand Names or Taglines

One way of leveraging symbolism in marketing is by choosing a culturally familiar symbol as a representation of your brand that helps people relate a deeper meaning to your brand. A conceptual brand name or as a part of a tag, below are some examples:

  1. Aashirvaad: The Atta brand by ITC, their communication revolves around the theme of love and care, a symbolic representation of the word ‘Aashirvaad’ meaning blessings
  2. Dove: The company is known for its gentle image, which is largely assisted by its logo. The Dove name and logo is a symbol of peace and goodwill, after all.
  3. Amazon: It’s the largest river in the world. You can find everything on Amazon. And the brand reinforces the Concept as “… a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

The Use of Symbolism in Ad Campaigns

The use of symbolism in campaigns helps the brand with creating a deeper relationship with the target audience by attaching their brand to a particular emotion, social issue, or celebration.

Below are some recent examples of brand campaigns that have used symbolism marketing to convey simple or complex messages in a creative, relatable way.

1. Tata tea’s ‘Desh ki Chai’

    The ad campaign has been giving one or other socially relevant message for decades. The hyperlocal ad campaign goes on to celebrate the ‘kadak’ (strong) spirit of Mumbai whose residents are perceived to be thorough professionals and at times detached or indifferent but are known to be equally kind and humane, showcasing a true ‘Mumbaikar Spirit’.

    2. Ariel’s When we #SeeEqual, we #ShareTheLoad

      Ariel’s #SharetheLoad campaign has consistently targeted gender inequality at home. Continuing their fifth installment with the running ad series, the #SeeEqual initiative has raised a pertinent question, “If men can share the load equally with other men, why are they not doing it with their wives? Ariel is urging men to be equal partners playing Equal roles at home. Because when we see equal, we #ShareTheLoad.

      The film #SeeEqual is in tune with what the women world over wants not just on Women’s day but every day- breaking free from any gender bias and to be Seen as Equal.

      3. Facebook’s More Together Campaign

        Facebook India launched a More Together campaign and as a part of the campaign, it released a video on the occasion of Diwali 2021. This social media campaign went viral as it showcases the will-power of people during the difficult times of pandemic. The video features a female protagonist and leader of a milk factory. She hires people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. However, a series of events shows us that the business gets in trouble and losses. Lastly, the workers help the owner saying that “She is our Pooja Didi”.

        What’s unique about symbolism is that it doesn’t place the product of the brand as the hero, it spotlights human emotions and strategically integrates the brand and its product into the storyline creating a strong subconscious connect.

        Arshya Harjani, is senior account executive, Edelman India

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