An iconic brand is a symbol-intensive brand that carry powerful universal values making it instantly recognisable thanks to ownable and distinctive codes.

douglas-holt-how-to-build-an-iconic-brand-2-638.jpgIconic brands adoption prompts hetero-directed emotional benefits, making people looking different or better if compared to their usual status.

Typical iconic brands are luxury brands such as Chanel, Armani or Prada, or globally admired jewellers such as Bvlgari, Cartier and Tiffany. Fashion brands can become iconic by delivering universal values and iconic elements that allow them to remain successful over time, like Ralph Lauren or Dolce&Gabbana.

Iconic brands are like religious signs and personalities. They become the carriers of universal values and stories that they express through a wide range of products characterised by instantly recognisable and iconic codes.

This happened for the French luxury brands such as:

  • Hermès
  • Chanel
  • Cartier

Icons are timeless and it takes time to create an icon.

Fashion brands become iconic when they are able to move beyond fashion by consolidating the iconic elements that have made them successful over time in products, communication and in-store.


Iconic brands are defined as having aspects that contribute to consumer’s self-expression and personal identity. Brands whose value to consumers comes primarily from having identity value are said to be “identity brands”. Some of these brands have such a strong identity that they become more or less cultural icons which makes them “iconic brands”. Examples are: Apple, Nike, and Harley-Davidson. Many iconic brands include almost ritual-like behaviour in purchasing or consuming the products.

There are four key elements to creating iconic brands (Douglas Holt –How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural BrandingHarvard Business School Press 2004):

  1. Necessary conditions” – The performance of the product must at least be acceptable, preferably with a reputation of having good quality.
  2. Myth-making” – A meaningful storytelling fabricated by cultural insiders. These must be seen as legitimate and respected by consumers for stories to be accepted.

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3.”Cultural contradictions” – Some kind of mismatch between prevailing ideology and emergent undercurrents in society. In other words, a difference with the way consumers are and how they wish they were.

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4.”The cultural brand management process” – Actively engaging in the myth-making process in making sure the brand maintains its position as an icon.

Becoming an icon is reaching the top of the marketing world. Icon brands are the most successful, distinctive and famous of the brands. As a result, all brands seek to become icons in order to maximize their sales and reputation however only a few is able to become icons.

Icon brands are very valuable for consumers as they have a crucial role in the society. A major reason for their success is not the possible services and benefits they can offer in terms of customer satisfaction or technology, but the fact that they have connections with culture. A proof of this is the fact that Coca-Cola and Nike are more popular and loved even than the United States according to a survey. Iconic brands symbolic meaning is another factor that makes them more successful than the other brands. The symbols in logos triggers imagination and connects it with ideas and values.

Customer perceptions also favour iconic brands, as a research states that iconic brands have a higher top-of mind awareness. This shows that iconic brands are the first brands to come to a customer’s mind when they think of a specific product. This familiarity makes the likelihood of purchase higher for icon brands than the other brands. Also if brand is an iconic, people do not tend to doubt its quality and prestige.img-set-2.jpg

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