Branding Social Movements
Social movements are a part of the historic landscape and are ever present in popular culture today. These movements can occur as a public reaction to significant events—either positive or negative—as a reaction to changing laws or traumatic events, creating a community to stand in solidarity with. Strong imagery, color palettes and phrases have followed some of these causes through their own history, and help us recognize a particular social movement in a variety of ways, on shirts, in parades, and through social media.
For example, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan was pulled from Reagan’s presidential campaign message of “Let’s Make America Great Again” intentionally to create a correlation between these two politicians to create a sense of comfort with those who supported Reagan as a president. References, such as this, can bring a sense of reconnection to audiences; Trump was not the first to do this. Rosie the Riveter, originally a cultural icon to represent women working in the factories during WWII, has since become a symbol for feminism, especially in the workplace. Throughout history, social movements have created community through shared passion for a cause, and desire to make a better future, which is why many see a correlation between modern movements and those from the past.
The following social movements have developed unique brands, making them easily recognizable due, in some cases, to the inclusion of historically significant imagery. For some, icons and colors that were not originally associated with a social cause have been adopted by these movements, creating a deeper, symbolic meaning. For other movements, a phrase or hashtag can be enough to communicate via several forms of media.
Here is a small selection of social movements that have impacted our community significantly, specifically within the past few years:
The rainbow flag has become such an icon for the Pride movement. The rainbow is used as a symbol for unity among the LGBTQ+ community. It was initially an icon translating to luck and happiness and even unity, as seen in Desmond Tutu’s vision of the “rainbow nation.” However, over the past several years, the significance of the rainbow has branded the LGBTQ+ social movement for equality.
Black Lives Matter
In 1968, two black Olympians beat a world record and threw their black-gloved fists up in the air as a sign for solidarity. Later on, this black fist illustration has been used as a symbol for this movement. One bold moment in history can define a social movement nationwide.
Originally seen as a raised fist of solidarity to many groups throughout history, this icon is now associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
While #MeToo became an extremely impactful movement in the fall of 2017 through social media, it initially began in 2006 by Tarana Burke to bring together women of color who have been sexually harassed or abused in underprivileged communities. Later on, Alyson Milano resurfaced these two words on Twitter with the sexual allegations from Harvey Weinstein, and several others over the next few months.
Now, this phrase-turned-hashtag has come to signify a worldwide movement, a community of individuals, men and women, who have been sexually harassed in the workplace, or anywhere. No symbol, no colors, no illustration—this simple hashtag has become a globally recognized logotype representing one of the most compelling social movements in recent history.