There are many forms of branding, but the most powerful is generally considered to be visual. People respond to visual cues more rapidly and more intensely than to verbal cues. A terrific example arrived in my mailbox this week: the current issue of National Geographic magazine.

The power and majesty of a redwood enhances the visual branding of Nat Geo, even as it obscures its logotype.
The power and majesty of a redwood enhances the visual branding of Nat Geo, even as it obscures its logotype.

Though I cannot even read the full title, I knew immediately what it was from the yellow border, an iconic piece of visual branding that’s been around longer than most household brands. In fact it debuted in 1910.

This appears to be the first issue of National Geographic to use the yellow border. Date: February 1910. A complete library of covers can be found at: http://shortlink.info/?7d761204
This appears to be the first issue of National Geographic to use the yellow border. Date: February 1910. A complete library of covers can be found at: http://shortlink.info/?7d761204

If you work with brands on a daily basis, you know how touchy it can be even to place objects close to a logotype, something many Brand Identity Standards Manuals expressly prohibit, let alone alter or obscure one. Yet some brands, like National Geographic, carry themselves with so much confidence that they can obliterate their logo and still shout their presence at a deafening level. In this case, the powerful and majestic image of a redwood tree serves only to enhance the power of the magazine’s brand.

The Snicker’s campaign does the same thing, replacing the letters from its logotype with short slogans that support the identity of this popular candy bar with messages compatible with the brand’s essence of satisfying hunger.

Snicker's Outdoor Ad

Snicker's Print Ad

Brand advocates, consumers who love particular products or companies, relish such tactics, which speak to them as peers, not marketing targets. The Snicker’s campaign is an insider’s campaign: if you get it, you belong. And on an emotional level, who doesn’t want to belong?

Got any other examples? Let me know.

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