As very verbal communicators, we find it hard to admit that, sometimes, our words don’t work.  

On a complicated, intricate change.  When statistics rule (and they do, these days, very often).  If emotions need to drive the initiative.  And if, plain and simple, a shape or color or legacy symbol says an eye-full.

Marketers call it the visual hammer, the one image that instantly relates to a brand or a company.  We think of Coke’s bottle, the Nike swoosh, the Tiffany blue box, Christian Louboutin’s red soles, even Paul Newman as real-life examples.

Yet when do you abandon words for a picture or symbol?  In packaging, it’s easy (or easier, ‘scuse us; the uniqueness of the look and feel can be a long time in the making).  Makers of Talenti gelato, for instance, scored a hit in the super-super premium ice cream category in part due to its clear plastic container, a transparency no other manufacturer can boast.  In older brand news, the Traveler’s red umbrella denoted the safety and security of its insurance products, a claim other institutions make in words and ads. 

In the practice of internal and external communications, there is a right balance between words and images.  The interplay works best, in our opinion, when a major initiative is being launched, one that must infiltrate every employee’s and, often, many outsiders’ psyches to be successful.  Sometimes, it’s a powerful “sans hyperbole” slogan – say, unusual acronyms or five to six words – that exhorts readers and watchers to do something.  For others, it first appears as a fabricated look that invades our eyes, and asks “what is this?”  and “why should I know?,” sparking the sense of intrigue that drives us to want more. 

It’s not an easy task.  We’ve spent hours and days and weeks thinking, free-associating, dreaming in our slippers, piling through content-laden magazines and thesauri, and using such tomes as A Technique for Producing Ideas (James Webb Young).  The answer?  You’ll know it when you read/see it.