A little while back, I saw a Fiat 500 with the Italian flag (as a badge) near its wheel arch.
I’ve been in Fiat showrooms. I’ve (sort of) bought a Fiat. The Italian flag badge is an optional extra, above and beyond the standard package, when you buy the car.
It wouldn’t cost much, but it’d be something put to you that you say yes or no to.
When I first saw the flag badge on the car, I thought ‘Why?’ – why would someone add that on? Why would they pay for it?
And then I got it.
The car itself is iconic, but the Italian flag itself is a logo – loaded with a multitude of preconceptions and stereotypes: style, panache, fashion, cafe culture, piazzas, cappuccino, grace, effortless flair.
And that’s what the flag badge brings to mind when it sits on the car: you can almost imagine driving it through cobbled streets, past baroque buildings, parking outside an Italian cafe, and stopping for a leisurely, midday coffee.
My car has badges on it too. I mentioned that I’d ‘sort of’ bought a Fiat. What I’ve actually bought is a Fiat Abarth 595 – the faster version of the Fiat 500.
Instead of flags, this car comes with scorpions on it – like this:
This logo marks my car out as an Abarth, not a normal Fiat. It marks it out as being faster and a bit edgy. It gives it pedigree – courtesy of the man it’s named after: Carlo Abarth.
Logos aren’t just a bunch of colours and symbols – they mean something.
If you saw a German flag on a car, you’d probably think it’s well-engineered, reliable, sturdy, efficient, classy.
If you saw the Mercedes badge, you’d probably think refined, luxurious, expensive, fast, smooth, elegant.
If you saw the McDonald’s logo, you’d probably think ‘mmmm – quick, dirty burger.’
Logos are baggage – forming, to a large extent, a brand’s equity.
And this also affects how I, or anyone else, would write for them.
I can’t write in a fun and frivolous tone with a British Airways logo next to my copy/content.
I can’t write in a stiff and formal tone with a Virgin Atlantic logo next to my copy/content.
I can’t write in a serious and sombre tone with an Innocent smoothies logo next to my copy/content.
I can’t write in a happy-go-lucky tone with an RBS logo next to my copy/content.
And so on and so forth…
In the world of brands, an image is never ‘just an image’ – it has baggage.