Brand symbols last and, if used consistently over time, take on meaning as an icon for the brand. Eventually it’s no longer necessary to mention the brand. The symbol does the job for you, laden with symbolic expression and the whole brand equity.
Some brand symbols, or mnemonics, that in my opinion really hit the mark:
(If you’re not German, the one in the middle is the Milka cow, for a chocolate brand. Note that I airbrushed out the brand, but it’s still instantly recognisable)
Let’s take an example of a brand that missed out on decades of opportunity – versus a brand that built its symbol (lets call it a logo here, though that is not strictly the right definition). Here are two German magazines. These old editions are from the same week in the 1960s (by the way, look how uncluttered things were then):
Brigitte is mainly targetted at older female readers these days. If you take the lettering then and now, you see big differences – obviously to keep in line with trends.
But we see no proper brand symbol. No logo. The only recognisable element decades later is a name, but even then the lettering is different. By contrast, Stern has used its star symbol for decades. Here we see the same week in the 60s as Brigitte and the same week again in 2003.
Question: could we remove the name (“Stern”)? Answer: yes. And the recognition is still there.
This is not possible with Brigitte. Some may argue this is four decades of wasted brand building opportunity, versus a star performance.