Look Again: Messages in Brands

Look again.  There might be something you did not notice at first glance on your shopping bag or your favorite brand logo.  Symbols and wording are very powerful ways that companies express their values and/or beliefs.  Not all cases are without controversy.  Here are a few examples of brands that have more than meets the eye.

1) is an online retailer whose vision is: to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online (  The logo embodies the corporate vision.  The customer focus is exemplified by the yellow swoosh that looks like a smile.  It is to represent the positive experience that customers will have when shopping at  The yellow swoosh also is an arrow pointing forward from the letter A to letter Z to show that provides anything that a customer might want ‘from A to Z’.  In this case, the logo fully embodies the vision of the company.

2) Toblerone

If you look closely at the Toblerone label you see a mountain with a hidden image of a bear.  The mountain represents the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy.  The Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks in the Alps and has become an iconic image to represent the Swiss Alps.  Therefore, by putting the image of the Swiss Alps as part of the logo, consumers can identify the chocolate’s origin.  The bear hidden in the image of the Alps represents the town Bern in Switzerland where the product was created, because Bern is also known as The City of Bears.

3) Forever 21

This example is not of the logo, but a discrete message to customers.  Forever 21, a trendy clothing retailer offering latest trends at affordable prices has at the bottom of its yellow iconic bag in small letters the wording ‘John 3:16’.  I am a big fan of Forever 21’s trendy clothing and accessories.  I just could not believe that for all the times I carried the bag, I never noticed the little print on the bottom.  The wording was brought to my attention from an article I recently read online.  The owners of Forever 21 put the wording on the bottom of the bags to demonstrate their faith.  Next time you buy something at Forever 21, be sure to check out the bottom of the yellow bag.

4) FedEx

I remember learning about the Fedex logo and I have never been able to look at it the same.  Everytime I see a Fedex truck drive by, my eyes go straight between the letters E and X to the hidden right pointing arrow in the negative space. The forward pointing arrow represents the speed and precision of Fedex.  Another thing to note is that for all the divisions of the company Fed is always purple to represent the core of the business and Ex is a different color depending of the division of the company.

5) VIA Rail Canada

VIA rail Canada has two train tracks in its logo.  If you look carefully, between the letters ‘V’ and ‘A’ with the ‘I’ acting as the division between the two tracks.

6) Apple

Apple is a recognized brand globally. The apple is a powerful sign that has been used in many contexts: the biblical story of Adam and Eve, the apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head spawning his eureka moment, the poisonous apple from the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and so on.  An interesting article explores the context of the famous logo – The Meaning Behind Apple’s Logo.  The bite of the apple is said to represent the computer byte.  With Steve Job’s attention to detail and genius marketing, it is safe to say that a lot of thought must have gone into the symbolism behind the Apple logo.

7) Lululemon

Lululemon, a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company, put on their holiday tote bag that they give away with purchase the phrase:  “Who is John Galt?”  For some, the question on the tote bag has them outraged whereas for others the question will go unnoticed.  John Galt is a fictional character from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged (1957).  Lululemon blog post says that the totes with the quote are: visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?  However, this is not how all of Lululemon’s customers interpret the question on the tote bag.  With some customers feeling absolutely disrespected by the quote because John Galt has been associated with an individual who pursues their best interest at the expense of others.  This line of thinking is absolutely against what yoga practice stands for (and Lululemon is a yoga-inspired brand).

Next time you look at a logo, see wording on a tote bag or product packaging ask yourself if there is some meaning that the company is trying to convey.  Chances are there is a message that your eye might not catch at first glimpse.


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