Reader’s Corner: How Brands Become Icons

cultural branding
Coca-Cola. Harley-Davidson. Nike. Budweiser. Valued by customers more for what they symbolize than for what they do, products like these are more than brands–they are cultural icons. How do managers create brands that resonate so powerfully with consumers?

Douglas B. Holt shows how iconic brands create “identity myths” that, through powerful symbolism, soothe collective anxieties resulting from acute social change. Holt warns that icons can’t be built through conventional branding strategies, which focus on benefits, brand personalities, and emotional relationships. Instead, he calls for a deeper cultural perspective on traditional marketing themes like targeting, positioning, brand equity, and brand loyalty–and outlines a distinctive set of “cultural branding” principles that will radically alter how companies approach everything from marketing strategy to market research to hiring and training managers. Douglas B. Holt is associate professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School.

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