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3 Traits of iconic home brands

Wayne McMaster

10 May 2013

What defines an iconic brand?

1. You know them when you see them
2. They have strong purpose and performance
3. They tell an authentic brand story

You know them when you see them

They are instantly recognisable, or as WPP's Millward Brown puts it: "super-familiar". They are always top of mind within their category, with strong visual cues. Iconics are the brands that stand for something big, something authentic.


Over many decades AGA has built a reputation for iconic design, uncompromising quality and award-winning innovation. The company and its technology originated in Sweden, but its roots are at the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. But what makes us proudest of all is the way AGA products are cherished as part of family life the world over. The enduring success of the AGA cooker is founded in the company's ability to ensure the cooker has evolved with the times without losing any of its appeal.


They have strong purpose and performance

Starting with passion, purpose and focus. No brand can reach iconic status without being successful in achieving it’s purpose. They fight against blandness, can be the perpetual underdog–they are not always the market leader, make great product, seek perfection and offer great customer service, resonating with consumers with a great brand experience.

Smallbone of Devizes

The iconic Smallbone kitchen, still looks as fresh and stylish as when it was launched over thirty years ago. It owes its enduring good looks to its heritage – derived from Irish Georgian dressers. An obscure Irish furniture dealer, Victor Mitchell was instrumental in launching the Smallbone business that, along with the Aga, has become synonymous with Middle England — the Smallbone kitchen. In 1977 Mitchell gave Charlie Smallbone and Graham Clark 100 kitchen dressers on credit. It was the boost their struggling young Wiltshire furniture business badly needed.

Until then Smallbone and Clark had been buying cheap local antique furniture, renovating it and selling it to London dealers. The visit to Ireland and the subsequent dresser deal enabled the duo to hire trained craftsmen and begin building furniture — mainly kitchen to order, and so Smallbone of Devizes was born.


They tell an authentic brand story

Storytelling never dies, by framing their promise in a great story, these truths that are constantly re-interpretted in light of contemporary culture allow us to feel connected to the brands. These iconic brands remain true to their original values. With strong associations with a particular time, founder, or country in their narrative, they can provide a positive halo to the brand, provided that its provenance is understood and appreciated by the wider audience.


Dyson's improbable success is retold here as a celebration of a brand that has become a symbol of great 21st century innovation and design. Driven on by its revolutionary bagless vacuum cleaner, Dyson has swept aside the iconic Hoover brand in many countries. With every Dyson vacuum cleaner is a small brochure that tells the Dyson brand story. How James Dyson failed more than 5000 times. How his competitors first ignored him, then copied him. And how he succeeded despite the odds. This simple brochure is a great way to reinforce the Dyson brand story with every new customer. Of course, the fact that this is an amazingly good vacuum delivering a great product experience also helps.


Iconic benefits

Iconic status, which has traditionally been built over decades, is enjoyed by relatively few brands. What can home-interest and interior brands learn from these icons that might be of benefit today?

While most interiors-focused businesses cannot hope to attain iconic status, they can still leverage the benefits of strong, clear positioning to their advantage and deliver on a strong brand story.

As the pace of change accelerates and the number of choices offered to consumers multiplies, the opportunity for brands to achieve iconic status is likely to increase, even though opportunities may be limited to one of a wide array of niches. In a complex world, iconic brands offer a welcome shortcut to decision making, it enables the best brands to not only weather the storms of hyper-fast change but even focus their power for the good of shareholders and consumers alike.


Further Reading:

Building Brand Authenticity, 7 Habits of Iconic Brands: Michael Beverland
How Brands become Icons: Douglas B Holt

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