September 05, 2021
I began by paraphrasing one of the many brilliant quotes by Johann Goethe, a German writer who lived at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. Truly his words were "A State begins with a name and a flag and then becomes them".
Note that I replaced the word State > Company with logo for the flag.
Still in this article I will quote the words of another German, or more precisely a German Austrian: Adolf Hitler, who influenced the world not only in a way known to all, but also had a huge contribution in shaping brands, company logos, and thus brand marketing for generations to come. Impossible - read on.
Each of us has an innate, even ingrained in our genes, need to belong to some group. For this reason, over years, decades, or centuries, clans, tribes, nations, or even religions were formed. The family that we form today is also a group of people to which we belong, forming a certain community. But let's look at the broader scope of this group of people, namely nations.
More than 6,000 years ago, silk was invented in China, and as a material it travelled along the "Silk Road" to European countries. The colours and coats of arms that were attributed to a given ruler soon began to be placed on this piece of cloth. It also had a practical aspect, because it was easier to distinguish and locate a branch of the army e.g. on the battlefield and where they were fighting. The flag thus became one of the more powerful symbols around which people rallied. It was the flag that over time became a tangible embodiment of certain ideas for which people could and still can die. It makes people identify with their country because they are part of it, a united community.
In most countries, the flag is surrounded by a special reverence that can be compared to religious rites during official ceremonies. Let's take a moment to look at the global superpower that is the US. In this country, an oath is taken to the flag, there is a flag holiday, and a mini-flag clasp is pinned to the lapels of politicians. The flag is considered a "national symbol of unity" that is ubiquitous throughout the country. Most Americans display a flag in front of their home or business or put stickers on their cars or motorcycles. This is how patriotism is shaped, or as we would put it in marketing terms - it binds the customer to the brand. This treatment polarizes societies, which unite to fight the enemy (the external and the internal, the real and the imaginary).
Authorities (not just in the U.S., but in virtually all countries) use the flag as an element to inspire a sense of loyalty. This is also why flags are placed in schools, to create a cult of the flag from an early age. In many countries, insulting the flag is also punishable. So we grow up in societies that care about the flag, teach respect and loyalty, and punish for its destruction or desecration, and whoever destroys our flag we consider the enemy. We have had the values of the flag instilled in us from childhood. Its counterpart in the economic world is... logo.
All right, but what about countries that, although they have a flag, do not unite the whole of society around it? The answer is simple - these countries are failing. Look at the history of countries that were colonies, such as Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, Mali, South Africa, or one of the pearls in the British crown - India, and many, many others. During colonial times, the people of these areas were forced to identify themselves with a flag or element of a flag that defined the overlordship of rulers such as Britain, France and the Netherlands. The lack of their own subjectivity, combined with coercion, always created an explosive mixture that always ended the same way: with the liberation of the country.
I also wrote about the exclusion and omission of one group of people in marketing strategy in THIS article. Click to read about it in more detail.
Some of you might say I'm wrong though, because countries like Canada and Australia still recognize the supremacy of the British Crown. Even Australia has the British flag on its flag!
Let's take a closer look at this. I will now use encyclopedic knowledge so as not to misrepresent the facts. Former British colonies are now independent countries. They voluntarily affiliate with the Commonwealth of Nations, an international organization of INDEPENDENT countries, most of which were part of the British colonial empire in past centuries. Some Commonwealth member states - so-called commonwealth realms - recognise the British monarch as head of their country, but most are republics with a president as head of state, and some have their own monarchies. Queen Elizabeth II is treated as the Head of the Commonwealth everywhere. Member territories have no legal obligations to each other. They are united by language, history, culture and declared values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
That is, the nations themselves voluntarily identify with the ideas of another nation, the aspects that unite them, and the placement of another nation's symbols on their flag is not viewed as an aggressive action by another nation. So we're dealing with the brand's most loyal fans here, aren't we?
We are supposed to be talking about marketing, so why are we talking about national flags? It's time for the previously heralded Adolf Hitler, who wrote in his book "Mein Kampf", "A symbol having sufficient force may be the first cause of interest in a social movement". This is how the swastika, the symbol of fascist Germany, came into being. He also created a handbook (today we would call it a brand book), which on several hundred pages described the rules and possibilities of placing this symbol. To be very accurate, the swastika was not Hitler's creation, but was a symbol appropriated by him. For millennia it has been a sacred sign of the gods, the sun, goodness and prosperity in many cultures. However, it only took about 10 years for the symbol to change its tone dramatically. As Chancellor, he banned the use of the old flag, but introduced a new flag - the Nazi flag with a swastika as the national flag.. and then banned the Jewish population from using it. Simplifying the geopolitical situation of those years - fortunately, we now know that excluding a group from belonging to a national symbol such as the flag condemns that organization to marginalization or even failure and fall.
Few people know that Hitler, after World War I, worked for the Military Department of Education and Propaganda, which is the current... marketing department. It was a place there that he saw the possibilities of influencing masses of people, and understood how important the right tools were in doing so (then: film, speeches, etc.). His idea was: if you want to create a sense of belonging, you have to take care of the symbols. Therefore, one of the most important ministries in the history of the Third German Reich was the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment (German: Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), headed by Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
If a flag can be compared to a logo, then the State can be a company. Hitler built a business that was unethical, criminal, but still somewhat based on marketing principles. Although the company was initially extremely successful, it failed due to an inherently flawed (marketing) strategy. Of course, it's a whole lot of luck that this happened.
To make a positive counterbalance to the above mentioned criminal German state - as a positive example of a good marketing strategy one can cite the actions of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Although the country is currently struggling, the idea of uniting the nation under a new, common flag - was a marketing-appropriate action. Maybe that is why Philip Kotler - one of the most important professors in the field of marketing, once said: Marketing is a modern form of war. It's not hard to list in one breath the companies fighting each other: BMW - Mercedes, Apple - Microsoft, Apple - Samsung, Puma - Nike - Adidas, Henkel - J&J, McDonald's - KFC - PizzaHut - Dominos etc.. of course, these are just examples. Wars are multifaceted, global and local. They are fought between two or more opponents. Coalitions and pacts are formed. They are sneaky and cunning. Indeed! Marketing is a modern form of war. Those who don't understand this will lose.
It's worth going back to the title of this article, "A company starts with a name and a logo and then becomes them," and juxtaposing that title with Piaggio's history. I suggest delving into the post WWII era, and thus the rise of the Vespa brand, which Piaggio owns. Since I use scooters from this company myself.. maybe this will be a good idea for another article I write in the future. Especially how important "Roman Holiday" turned out to be.
With values about the flag so deeply ingrained in our culture, science, art, and the law, it's no wonder that we connect such strong emotions with the company logo that is its counterpart. Ignoring company symbols, downplaying their importance is a mistake that is usually the result of a false understanding of marketing strategy. This leads to a situation where customers do not identify with the idea and values of the company and then buy the competitor's products. This is because the logo (with the whole marketing strategy, i.e. the idea and values of the company) can also unite. Today, companies - with their marketing communications - shape trends in society, including positive ones. However, we should remember that it is not only a powerful tool, but also a dangerous one.
The above article is the private opinion of the author. It was not intended to offend anyone or depreciate the brand. We treat this article in educational terms. If you feel that the author in any way e.g. violated the good name of your brand - contact the author. I'm sure we'll come to a common understanding.
A professional with many years of experience gained during the full process of designing and implementing marketing strategies, brand building, marketing communication, organization of trade marketing activities and their logistics in the supply chain. An expert in the field of brand activation, lotteries, commercial marketing, shopper marketing, e-commerce. A person with an open mind and taking advantage of opportunities that the competition does not see. Multidisciplinary, with a lot of positive energy. A negotiator using the Scotwork method.