White rabbit breeds a new trend for hallmarks

The popularity of the hallmark device has spread from the morally-conscious to the marketing aware. Tom Bawden charts its developments and examines the design issues

Two new symbols, one launched jointly by the mainstream Christian churches and the other soon to be launched by Scotland The Brand, point to an emerging trend in branding. The design work is by Lambie-Nairn and Scott Stern Associates respectively.

We are all familiar with the international Tidy Man symbol on sweet wrappers, quietly reminding us to bin our litter. And the white rabbit logo used by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection to denote animal-friendly products. The latter is proving so effective that the BUAV plans to introduce one internationally recognised symbol to unite animal rights groups across the world.

Tidy Man and the white rabbit are both examples of hallmark branding because each creates a brand from something intangible and puts it in the relevant places. Both Tidy Man and the white rabbit represent a “product” based on moral responsibility.

But the new devices from the mainstream Christian churches and Scotland The Brand embody a new trend. It would seem hallmark branding is moving beyond its traditional moral remit, to embrace other types of “product”.

“I would say this trend does exist. Something people have learned about communications is that icons reinforce ideas. Every communicable idea can be communicated through better use of an image,” says Landor Associates executive director Richard Ford.

The churches’ new symbol, designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn and straplined “New Start”, is to be used jointly by the Christian churches. The marque aims to marry the chief concerns of the faiths and the logo acts as a hallmark branding device, applied across church material and used by individuals to show their commitment to the campaign.

“We hope people might put it in their windows,” says Church of England director of communications Reverend Bill Beaver.

The logo is indicative of the broader trend in hallmark branding. Like the Tidy Man and the white rabbit the New Start initiative is rooted in the moral sphere, promoting the values espoused by the churches. But it is also being used in a commercial sense, to promote the churches themselves and to attempt to alleviate their declining attendances.

“The logo is minimalist to appeal across a wide range of situations,” says Beaver.

The symbol from Scotland The Brand takes things a step further, being purely a marketing device. It is independent of any individual body, intended for use across the board. “It is a country of origin device, not a logo,” says George Russell, chief executive of Scotland The Brand. “It is a signature for companies ascribing to a quality assurance regime within their industry and to create consistency in the way Scotland is expressed,” he adds.

Indeed the vogue for place branding has translated into a number of hallmark projects. The controversial new BTA Branding Britain logo by Real Time Studio is applied widely to British projects while promotional body Marketing Manchester unveiled a logo by McCann-Erikson earlier this year. “By the end of our first year we want to have 100 users of the logo,” says Marie Mohan director of communications at Marketing Manchester.

Other cities are choosing to double up, using their city logos as hallmark branding devices to promote themselves in a wider sense. Glasgow’s three main promotional bodies have announced they will back the same marque, straplined “Glasgow – the friendly city” (DW 24 October).

“Our main targets are local businesses, hotels and government agencies. We will also encourage taxis, shops and restaurants to put a sticker in their windows,” says Glasgow City Council chief marketing officer Carol Matthews.

Matthews says the more the device is seen the more the message of Glasgow as a friendly city will be reinforced.

Should the growth continue, it could be a double-edged sword for design groups. On one hand it will mean an increase in logo work as more marketing departments come to see the advantages of hallmark branding. The downside of this is that other designers, of print and packaging, will have yet another restricting factor in their brief – one more logo to work around.

“If you are creating a new design and know [the hallmark] has to go in, it is not really a problem. But if it has to be worked into an existing design it can be a little more problematic,” says Interbrand director of strategy Pam Robertson.

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