If you’ve ever been lucky enough to come across an iceberg, you probably only saw about 10% of its total size. The remaining 90% would have been submerged, absorbing the cold and maintaining its structure. Brands are like icebergs. They consist of what we can see and what we can’t see.
What we can see is the tangible part of the brand – the visible part that we can see at first glance. But deep in our unconscious minds is everything we can’t see. Everything that gives real meaning to the brand, the aspects that influence our behaviour.
People identify with brands; we recognise their logos, remember their names and even recite their taglines or think about an iconic brand when we hear a song or smell an aroma. The visible part of the brand: the 10% of the iceberg.
For a brand to connect with people and become identifiable in their minds, however, we have to put a lot of effort into building what we can’t see – the remaining 90% of the iceberg. A name, an image or a message are meaningless if there isn’t a personality and certain values behind them to help us build a clear, unique and distinctive brand position.
When we define a brand, we have to construct a pillar to support its tangible and intangible elements and give it content and meaning. In the building process, the final thing we need to define is what we can see. But this doesn’t mean that it is the least important aspect because the visual identity of a brand is what gives visibility to the strategy and helps determine what the target audience’s brand experience is going to be.
Today, the Iceberg Theory is applied to different areas of business, such as corporate strategy and branding. This theory originates from the minimalist style of Ernest Hemingway, who believed that the crux of a story should remain below the surface, with only the essential facts left visible.