Anything pertaining culture fascinates me deeply. As globalization ensues at lightening speed, it enmeshes how we communicate, collaborate and co-exist, culture becomes even more compelling. Inseparable from our identity.
It is what separates the Americans from the Angolans, the Brazilians from the Belgians, and the Chinese from the Chileans. Each uniquely different, with a distinctive identity. Extending beyond the individual – as a personal brand – into collective brands, as a nation and her people. Making their mark on the global stage with “brands”, via their tool of choice of either political, economic, or military strength.
Businesses know full well the perils of disregarding culture, in the reality of global trade. And for any brand-builder, this means getting inside the minds of consumers to understand what makes them tick, and adopt an intercultural learning approach. Because consumers are universally fickle, always gravitating towards brands with whom they connect emotionally.
In the end without such engagement, there are no brands, only commodities.
Here’s a look at the role of culture in Asian brand-building. I’ll use Chinese Telecom player, China Unicom, and their logo development story as an example.
China Unicom‘s logo that appears to the naked Western eye as an aesthetically-balanced interlinked geometric shapes, carries a much compelling symbolic meaning and taps deep into Chinese culture. Communicating a clear message through color, shape, wording and overall design.
The logo derives from the ancient Chinese Buddhism graphics “Pan Zhang” or “Lucky Buddha Knot”. The lines twisting in loops are symbolic of China Unicom as a modern telecom entity in orderly, neat and brisk operation as well as its eternal, never-ending business.
The logo also is hidden with two interconnected Chinese characters — “Xin” in Mandarin, meaning “Heart”. This is a vivid demonstration of China Unicom’s service philosophy of “connecting to hearts”, implying users will always be cared for, and the company will always stand behind its users wholeheartedly.
Chinese red is the color of China’s national flag, representing enthusiasm, passion and energy. The color is most typical of the Cathay complex, hinting at joy and fortune. The color also increases the affinity of the corporate image and gives a strong sense of visual impact, right fitting in the corporate positioning of vitality, innovation and fashion.
Ink black is the most inclusive and cohesive color, symbolizing nobleness and prudence. The red and black going together creates a stable, harmonious and appealing visual effect.
The dual “i”s in red just add to the perfect final touch, not only resembling two people communicating with each other at anytime and anywhere to highlight the spirit of the brand — “Let everyone get connected as they wish”, but also looking like an ear of wheat in the vertical direction to imply a bumper harvest, so as to enhance the company’s image of joy and fortune in people’s minds.
As the mandarin pronunciation of “i” is the same as “love”, highlighting again the mission statement of the corporate brand – Going ahead Heart by Heart. In English, “i” could mean “I (myself)”, or “information” to stress the marketing model where customers are put first and provided with integrated communications and information services”.
Inspiration: China Unicom