The Power of the Image


The bottom of the airplane illustrated in the Southwest Airlines logo is a red heart. Do you think it’s an accident that millions of Southwest passengers perceive the airline to be the “heart in the sky?”

Few business leaders appreciate exactly how important imagery is in connecting to the hearts of their customers. Most marketers want to create imagery that will attract everyone. That’s impossible: when you try to be all things to all people, you become nothing meaningful to anyone.

Our imagery will attract certain people and repel others. Cult Brands like Southwest, Apple, and Harley-Davidson not only realize this, they capitalize on it.

Think about the blazing eagle tattoo of your typical HOG (Harley Owner Group) rally attendee. Does seeing that image excite you? Or do you think to yourself, “No thanks.” The point is that you’re either a lover of the Harley-Davidson brand, or you’re not.

Every image signals to consumers whether or not your brand is especially for them.

Open up an L.L. Bean catalog and you’ll be struck with images of outdoor and indoor tranquility, with products on old, wooden docks, people engaging in dialogue by a lake, sitting on rocking chairs looking out at the trees, or indoors by a roaring fire with a yellow Labrador Retriever nestled in his bed. If you don’t have an affinity for nature, hiking, and quietude, these images probably won’t speak to you. If you do have a love for what this imagery represents, you may dive into their seasonal catalogs with joy and excitement.

Symbols, Archetypes, and Your Brand

Why do images have so much power? Our logos and marks are symbols.

Symbols are triggers of archetypal images—energy patterns that rest in our subconscious mind. These primordial images are not personal to each individual, but are aspects of the “collective” of all of us. Eminent Swiss psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung highlighted that these archetypal images are the building blocks of thought.

These subconscious, archetypal images lay the foundation for the experience customers are going to have with your brand. The images you create in your logos and marks—the symbols—are a signal to the customer of what the brand represents.

In Man and His Symbols, Dr. Jung included an old Volkswagen advertisement with an aerial view of Beetle toy cars forming the shape of the Volkswagen logo. He noted that the advertisement “may have a ‘trigger’ effect on a reader’s mind, stirring unconscious memories of childhood. If these memories are pleasant, the pleasure may be associated (unconsciously) with the product and brand name.”

Archetypes: Connecting to Your Customers’ Hearts

Indeed, there is a science to connecting to the hearts of our customers. Marketers must find ways to positively influence customers through the use of powerful imagery. Only by understanding the images in our customers’ hearts can we create images that will connect with their minds and drive them to choose us more often than our competitors.

Business leaders must come better understand the meaning behind the energy patterns that give meaning to the forms we represent through our imagery. And they understand them, our communications must constantly support the meanings our customers find:

  • Harley-Davidson must continually strive to stay a rebel;

  • Nike must try to overachieve;

  • Southwest Airlines must continue to be loving, compassionate, and caring towards its passengers.

If you betray the image that’s connected to the customers’ hearts, you’ll quickly repel the cherished customers you’re trying to building long-lasting relationships with.

A critical power of branding lies in your ability to creatively associate your brand in highly relevant ways to your customers. Your marks, logos, and images have to be associated to a deep aspect of your customers’ hearts.

Take time to understand what’s meaningful to your customers—to comprehend what’s in their hearts. Only then can you hope to connect with your customers on a deeper, more meaningful level and create a powerful brand that’s irreplaceable in the hearts and minds of your customers.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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