Are You an Icon?

Wherever you go, there are three icons that everyone knows: Jesus Christ, Pele and Coca-Cola.” – Pele

The power of image was shown at its strongest this week, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posed for photographs in front of the Taj Mahal, on the very bench where, 24 years earlier, William’s mother Diana had created one of the most iconic images ever of a failing marriage.

The fact that the photographs of William and Kate caused such a media frenzy demonstrated three things:

  1. Diana’s mastery of the media enabled her to create an image which spoke volumes at the time, and is still being talked about, nearly a quarter of a century later;
  2. William has inherited his mother’s talent, although he uses it more sparingly. This, however, was one image that needed to be updated, and he did that with aplomb;
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Now, I’m not saying that you, or your business, are or needs to be “iconic”. Apart from anything else, it is generally for others to call you an icon (although Pele may not agree).

That said, I wonder what you could do to make your business more memorable?

When I led the development of the Buckingham Palace Shop, our range of commemorative china became iconic. The very talented (and sadly departed) designer  Joanna Isles had never designed for ceramics before, and it turns out that’s not as straightforward as it might sound. The result was an innovative twist on a classic concept, and the range was an instant hit.

BPSO 2
Buckingham Palace Shop – Sample Media Coverage

The fact that it was so popular made keeping up with demand almost impossible, and so the scarcity of the china made it even more desirable. I still meet people today (21 years later) who remember that range and the stories around it. How many retailers can say that about a range they created 21 years ago?

That china was not created on a whim, but based on a story – the story I and my team told ourselves. The story was about people visiting the official residence of The Queen, and what they would see, and what they would expect to find in the shop, and how we could both fulfil their expectations and exceed them.

It would have been much easier – and safer – just to create a standard range of souvenirs; most people would have been okay with that. By focusing on our story, however, and on illustrating it in the best way we could, we created something much more powerful: something distinctive, something memorable, something aspirational – and something that also made an awful lot of money (all destined to fund the £37m restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire of 1992).

So that’s my advice: start with your story, and tell it well, in everything you do.

Other people might not start referring to you as an “icon”, but they will remember you, and they will talk about you.


Stephen Spencer is a keynote speaker, business coach and consultant, helping organisations create better Customer Experiences to unlock team and profit potential. He has over 25 years’ experience as a leader, trainer and experience developer with some of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism and Hospitality brands. Sign up for Stephen’s POSITIVE Customer Experience newsletter here.

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