In a world of consumer society, it is undeniable that brands have a significant place in our lives. Chanel, Starbucks, Adidas etc. It is that seeing their name and logo reminds us more than just brands but a concept and experience. In this post I will analyse the cultural branding improved and explored by D.B Holt in his source How brands become icons. The Principles of Cultural Branding. Holt shows a new kind of branding model which has appeared with the rise of mass media communication. He says that, to some extent, this branding model depends on the other three methods which have been the leading methods in the branding business since the 1970s. This new kind of branding presents a mix of all of the previous methods which are mind-sharing, emotion sharing, and becoming viral. However, even though we are living in a branding culture, it is not so easy to become an iconic brand.

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“Customers value some products as much for what they symbolise as for what they do.”. (Holt, 2004,p.3) For brands like Coke, Nike, and Jack Daniel’s, customers value the brand’s stories largely for their identity value. Acting as a way of self-expression, the brands are full of with background stories that consumers can relate with their identities. In this way, brands help them express who they want to be. The most outstanding of these brands become iconic brands. (Holt, 2004, .p3-4) He gives a definition of cultural branding as  “the set of axioms and strategic principles that guide the building of brands into cultural icons” (Holt, 2004, p.11)

We can observe the beginning of the method of mind-share in the 1950s. The formula was simple: “For a brand to succeed in a society, the brand must own a simple, focused position in the prospect’s mind, usually a benefit associated with the product category.” (Holt, 2004, p.15) Which also includes the popularity and accessibility of the brand. Like in the example of the Coca-Cola, it became very popular and accessible that at one point people forget the name of the actual drink and start to call all cokes as Coca-cola. 

Emotional branding can be considered as the extension of mind-share. “Emotional branding emphasises how this brand essence should be communicated: Managers should build emotional appeals into their branding efforts, which are used to spur emotionally charged relationships with core customers” (Holt, 2004, p.21) For instance, Coca-Cola Company created a relation between American war and Coca-Cola through the advertisements. In that way, consumers could feel the collective feelings of national solidarity emanating from America’s ethos as dramatised in World War II.  (Holt, 2004, p.22)

Viral branding focuses on the public influences, how non-company actors, such as celebrities influence customers to value the brand. (Holt, 2004, p.24) Kylie Jenner would be a perfect example of this since she uses her instagram account to serve advertisements quite a lot. In fact, she has a great power one leading the consumers. When she started to use a specific hair product, it became viral and now everyone around the world uses it.

Dr.Martens is a perfect example of cultural branding and an iconic brand. Dr.Martens is an English footwear and clothing brand, headquartered in Wollaston in Wellingborough.  Dr. Martens wanted to take its brand beyond the singular image of an 8-hole black boot, to a credible fashion offering.

For the sake of loyalty of consumers, the brand aimed to create a campaign which would change perceptions and celebrate its heritage by encouraging self-expression, a key pillar of Dr. Martens’ brand values. As seen in the YouTube video, the advertisement constantly implies the fact that you are going to be different and stylish if you have a pair of Dr.Martens. With the help of their latest advertisements, the products have served consumers in multiple different ways. From punks to goths, indie kids to trendsetters, the Dr. Martens wearer  is no longer connected by a single style. Dr.Martens became popular with the idea of “being different”. It created a culture of differentness and encouraged originality of styles. It became a symbol of marginality and alternative fashion. In this way, it presented an experience of being unique and precious to the people who are wearing it.

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Therefore, it is easily seen that brands are now able to become cultural icons with the right advertisement policies. It is possible to relate them with values and ideas just like in the example of Dr.Martens. Naomi Klein claims in her book No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs: taking aim at the brand bullies (1999) this revolution started around 1980’s. Brands used to try to stand out with their products, but this began to leave its place to the image of brand itself. (Klein, 2000, p.25) As a result of that, these companies are forever on the prowl for creative new ways to build and strengthen their brand images. (Klein, 2000, p.26) Also, branding and advertising is not the same process. Advertising any given product is only one part of branding’s grand plan, just like sponsorship and logo licensing.  In order to create a brand identity; first, they had to change the way people live. Advertisements had to let the consumers know about the existence of some new invention, then convince them that their lives would be better if they have it, for example, cars instead of wagons. (Klein, 2004, p.27)

In a consumer society, those developments are not surprising. There are several interesting marketing strategies and they will continue in the future. However, right now, successful institutions should first produce brands instead of the products, since the consumers are looking for brands instead of the product.

Holt, D. B. (2004). How Brands become Icons. The Principles of Cultural Branding.Cambridge Mass. : Harvard Business School press.

Klein, N. (1999). No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs: taking aim at the brand bullies. New York: Picador.

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