Rekindling the Powerful Hidden Stories Behind Brands

May 30, 2023
By Gabriel Cohen

Have you ever noticed the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo? Or the surreptitious bear in the Toblerone mark? Many brand identities have a hidden story that connects a specific brand element (usually the logo) to a bigger narrative. Like a brand easter egg. This story is frequently told at the big brand reveal to connect the strategy with the expression, but over time, the mythology tends to get lost in the rubble of the launch presentations and along with them, the emotive connection. Ask the current brand team or agency if they can explain the story behind the identity, and chances are that if they weren’t involved in the work, they won’t even be able to tell it.  


What will happen two to three years after launch once the excitement of the rebrand has faded away? How can brand teams continue to find ways to sustain the momentum and keep the brand story fresh?  


This post from Deloitte about its brand makeover is an example of the practice in action. Some brands go even further. BBVA, a global bank has a dedicated page on its own website that chronicles a number of stories related to the rebrand. The amount of detail is greater than almost any case study you’ll encounter on a brand agency’s website. This strategy reflects a growing recognition of the opportunity for storytelling directed at internal employees with the goal of fostering understanding, pride and engagement across all stakeholders. Externally, the content also enables a company to demonstrate that it is a leader in brand, especially if it’s in a category where brand isn’t usually front and center. This can help in recruiting top brands, and top talent across the board. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, about 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand to be a crucial factor in their job search. 

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Article: A Better Brand Experience - For Every Team

The power of codes and cues

Showcasing the brand and the story behind your brand codes and cues is a way to build a deeper connection with employees, customers, partners, potential recruits, and the media, making it easier to identify with your message, and ultimately your brand story.  


When it comes to building a narrative or myth around brand codes, Mark Thwaites, Monigle’s Chief Creative Officer says,  


“If thought through when designed and told correctly, these codes and cues are a great opportunity to build recall and connection with the audience. With it, the a to z of Amazon, the hidden people celebrating in the Tostitos wordmark, or the 31 flavors promise of the Baskin Robbins letterforms, these brands are conveying personality traits, reinforcing product promises, and most importantly expanding the role of their logos from pure identification to an opportunity to create conversations and “in the know moments” with their audiences.”  


Rie Bridges, a Director of Strategy at Monigle, goes on to add,


“There’s no such thing as a ‘general’ human, and so there’s no such thing as a symbol or story that’s ‘generally’ powerful. We’re moved by specifics. the most powerful symbols emerge from—but then remind us of—the stories that bind us together into communities. The best brand symbols create intrigue that makes us want to learn more: they invite us into the story that inspired them.”


For ages, brand guidelines have lived behind a firewall of protection and buried within various PDFs. However, brand guidelines are an inadequate conduit for storytelling. Recognizing the power of perpetuating an enduring story, many leading brands have created public-facing versions of their guidelines, allowing a new way of experiencing brand with real-world examples for everyone to see.


To tell these stories in more engaging ways, the best ones have gone beyond the traditional ‘guidelines’ reimagining the content to fit a digital first environment. That means infusing video and animation to make the content more interesting and engaging.


The days of arguing that your logo must be kept hidden behind lock and key have been rendered outmoded by the existence of Google images. Increasingly, many companies are realizing that transparency is an opportunity to build trust, both internally and externally. By influencing the use of the different elements of the business, a brand can maintain open, honest, and accessible communications and relationships with stakeholders.

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Smart brand teams from leading global organizations like Salesforce, Optum, Lenovo, and Starbucks are leading the way and building brand centers, like Beam, that allow brand teams to present their brand guidelines in the context of storytelling, and further engage with the intention and purpose of the organization. Tools such as back-end permissions, templates, guidelines, and asset management allows teams to use brand as a storytelling mechanism, whether it’s to attract marketing and creative talent, raise their profile among future audiences like business school students who are always looking for public information. In addition, partners, community organizations and non-profits and the media are target audiences for public facing content. 


The benefits of public brand content:


    1. Increased brand awareness and approval
    2. Stronger brand equity
    3. Attract new talent
    4. Showcase industry expertise


Karen Sommerich, Director of Brand Strategy at Salesforce summarized the rationale for making part of the brand center site (built by Beam) public.  


“We want people to know what makes Salesforce the brand it is, and to understand why we make the decisions we make. So, it was obvious to us to include in the public pages our brand origin story and brand promise.”  


When done well, the brand center experience should serve as a best-in-class articulation of the brand. Even a comparison of the login page provides an indication, as seen when looking at Peloton’s login page for its brand center (also built on Beam) and comparing it to its external facing website 


By making your brand story publicly accessible, you not only establish a single source of truth, but you also create a new avenue for storytelling and engagement around your brand values, inspiration and brand codes. One that will allow your brand myths to live beyond the limited time surrounding a brand launch and be a perpetual reinforcement of the essence of the organization, their mission and culture. 



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