When I think of branding, I think of branding cattle in cowboy movies. I heard a story that goes something like this: two (Texas) cowboys were talking about their ranches and cattle. Cowboy Slim asked Jake what the name of his ranch was. Jake answered, “Circle, it makes it easy for branding.” Jake then asked Slim, “what’s the name of yours?” Slim replied, “Bar-X king slippery willow way.” “Wow,” said Jake, “you must have a lot of cattle.” “Well,” said Slim, “not really, we actually lose a lot of them in branding.”

That is one kind of branding but there is another that is more interesting: it is the branding of merchandise and ideas. Our oldest grandson, Wesley Franklin, and his family live in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. He is a graphic artist who does sophisticated lettering, murals, logos and Web design. However, his main contribution (with another man who lives in Darwin) is an online business that does “branding.” Their website (studio 164a.com) advertises how they can develop a brand identity to represent a logo design, stationery, signage, social media graphics, websites and other things. Their Charitable website specializes in development, fundraising, crowdfunding and training.

A business, church, even a person, may display a brand that associates the public with their product so that it is “lodged” in the public’s memory. For example, when you see “golden arches,” you may taste (or feel nauseous) at the thought of hamburgers and fries. The little green gecko reminds you of Geico Insurance, and the apple with a bite prompts you to think of a certain computer and electronics company. Brands that are recognized world-wide include Starbucks, FedEx, Coca-Cola, Nike, Mercedes and Mickey Mouse.

Think also of how a symbol indicates an idea or relationship to a particular object. A brand uses  symbols to prompt people to go beyond what is known or seen by a link between certain concepts and experiences. Symbols can stand for words, so that a red octagon sign means “STOP”; on maps, lines represent rivers and roads and shading tells us something about terrain. 

The linguistic study of symbols is called semiotics and is quite fascinating and often complex. 

The “fish” symbol, which is based on the Greek word for fish, is a symbol that some Christians brand their car with, although early Christians used it as a secret symbol. Muslims use the “cross and the crescent” for their symbol and Jews use the star of David, which is thought to be symbolic of the shield of David.

The Orthodox Church uses many icons (from the Greek word meaning “image”) to act as intermediaries between worshipers and certain holy people. However, the icons are stylized and meant to be symbolic, rather than literal. Everything represented in the icon is said to have a precise meaning. The icon painters, who were usually monks, followed models from iconographic manuals.

What kind of branding might represent DaySpring church, where the tag line is “sacred, simple”? Perhaps a candle with a halo around it?

But why a candle? I read that “in Christianity the candle is commonly used in worship both for decoration and ambiance, and as a symbol that represents the light of God or, specifically, the light of Christ” (“symbolism of candles,” from the Web, naturally) and that candles are often placed on the altar, usually in pairs.

Candles are significant at DaySpring too and are found in the sanctuary behind and at both sides of the altar. At church in special services they take on more distinctive meanings. For example, Catholic church members often light candles with someone in mind that they intend to pray for. Candles also cast a warm, soft light to encourage a quiet atmosphere.

Halos are symbols of holiness and in paintings adorn the head of Jesus, Mary, angels and the disciples (perhaps excluding Judas). They are supposed to symbolize how God’s holiness is radiating from them.

In churches, both Protestant and Catholic, the cross is a common symbol, although without Christ on it in the former tradition. People also wear it as a sign either that they are a “Christian” or for good luck. Could it be that the bigger the cross that is worn the more likely that person is to be holy?

That is probably more information than you wanted or needed on brands and symbols. But remember that they can be very powerful. On June 17, 2020, Quaker Oats retired its Aunt Jemima brand and logo, after using it for more than 130 years. The company acknowledged the brand could be interpreted as a racial stereotype. And more recently the company Mars, Inc. dropped the name “uncle” from Uncle Ben’s Rice. Uncle was 70 years old.

What, or who, will be next? Someday, even the Golden Arches may collapse.

Karl and Joice Franklin
Branded (we trust) with the cross