The Nike swoosh. Apple’s apple. McDonald’s arches. Hollywood’s sign on a hill. The Statue of Liberty.

Icons are all around us. The best ones have become a part of our visual memory so much that we seem to ignore them, taking them for granted when they appear on a billboard, in a commercial, or in a photograph. But, for many companies, finding something iconic about their branding means they can gain a foothold in a consumer’s mind, drawing attention to themselves at all times, even when they’re not directly in front of the consumer.

And that’s why, when I took a recent family trip to Disney World, of all the pictures that were possible (with Mickey, on a ride, eating dinner), the only one I really wanted was of me and my nine-month-old daughter in front of Cinderella’s castle.

Disney Studios LogoStretching high above the park, the castle features prominently in the Disney logo (for its films) and millions of tourists pose in front of it every year. The castle symbolizes many things, including hope, love, togetherness, happiness, dreams, and wishes. No wonder people want to eat there, get married there, and spend the night there.

Does your organization have something iconic that makes people think about you when they’re not thinking about you?

What’s your version of Home Depot’s orange aprons or Starbucks’ paper cup and cardboard sleeve? Do you have a place or a thing or a look that etches itself in people’s minds? If not, here are three questions to ask at the next creative meeting in order to get the ball rolling.

  1. Do people associate us with a place? If so, what one thing here do we want people to remember when they leave?
  2. Do people associate us with a look? If so, what color or image will be most memorable?
  3. Do people associate us with a feeling? If so, what is it, and how can we get people to recall that feeling time and again?