When we find ourselves in uncertain times, whether it wars or global economic downturn, we look for comfort and security. And it’s the iconic brands that deliver the warm glow that comes with familiarity. We depend on them to lift our spirits.

As David Heitman notes,

… belief systems that provide certainty in uncertain times. During tough economic cycles, while many people will chase the low cost provider with no sense of loyalty, others will look to brands as safe havens of reliability.  

But what makes an iconic brand? In ‘What makes Brands achieve iconic status’, the Imperial College London states that “consumers view many brands as commonplace and indistinguishable”, with few achieving iconic status despite heavy advertising. They propose that iconic brands are different from those which are simply large and popular. They stand the test of time, offering an emotional connection with the customer. Iconic status is achieved when these brands become part of popular culture. 

So let’s take a look at our pick of some of the most iconic brands and how they make us feel and which ones are part of that popular culture. We’d love to know which ones you would have included in your top five. Let us know and we’ll do a recap next month.


Dear Your Majesty…

Vegemite – the quintessentially Australian spread – is celebrating its centenary in 2023. Already there are some cheeky ads that have surfaced in preparation for this big milestone.

In loveable larrikin style, the Aussie brand has invaded London with a humble, but cheeky request to Her Majesty The Queen for a 100th birthday letter. Even the poms would raise a smile seeing the following ad slide past on the back of a truck.

Let’s not forget the fact that there are a lot of Australians living in London and it’s ads like these that play to a genuine sense of nostalgia for those homesick expats. 



In a long line of great Volkswagen Ads back in the late 50s, the ad with the one word headline that people most remember was DDB’s timeless Lemon concept for the US market. 

While it’s an iconic automobile now, the Beetle was then something of an  underdog in a field of gas guzzling competitors. The creative envelope was pushed to exploit this position and what a great job they did.

The lovely thought behind the ad was that due to a tiny blemish, the Beetle featured in the ad was rejected and never made it onto the boat for export to the US. This beautifully written ad was really part of a delightful, self effacing campaign for the Beetle that won America over. Part of the pop culture? We think yes. Definitely.  


Absolut consistency

As legend has it, the very first Absolut ad back in 1986 – Absolut Perfection – started the ball rolling in style and creative direction – opening up a galaxy of opportunity to draw visual and verbal puns ad infinitum.

The campaign kept on that roll for a quarter of a century, with more than 1500 variations – too many to showcase here. But we’ve thrown a few in below. There is no other ad campaign like it in terms of creative consistency, and it’s a measure of how recognisable the marketing approach was that all you really needed was the outline of a bottle for people to recognise it.

If the measure of being part of pop culture is countless ads being framed as posters and being lovingly hung on walls across the world, then Absolut is that and more.


Ketchup looks like Heinz

The Heinz ‘Draw Ketchup’ campaign was a remarkable demonstration of the emotional connection consumers have with the much loved brand. The plan was simple: anonymously ask people from 18 countries to draw ketchup in 15 minutes.

Now while the quality of the artwork varied considerably, there was a staggering visual commonality to the drawings. When people drew ketchup, the vast majority of them drew Heinz. Even without the name on some of the bottles drawn, it was uniquely Heinz, from the classic deep red, to the well known bottle shape and even the signature keystone label.

More social experiment than marketing, the campaign proved just how much the brand had become part of the consumer psyche – and how important it is as an anchor in their lives. And in a lovely touch, the top 500 drawings were each given a limited edition bottle of Heinz featuring their own illustration as the label. 


Coke owns Christmas

Very few brands in the world have impacted culture in the way Coca Cola has. There have been countless memorable taglines and catchy summer jingles for the brand over the decades.

It has featured in innumerable movie scenes, in endless photographs of cities around the world, on tee shirts in every corner of the planet and in the hands of billions of consumers. But it’s Coke’s relationship with Christmas – or more particularly, Santa Claus, that is perhaps the most intriguing.

Before Coke’s 1931 campaign featuring the somewhat groundbreaking artwork of Haddon Sundblom, Santa was a very different character to the one that is embedded in our psyche today. He was often portrayed as a tall gaunt man… even somewhat forbidding. Then along came Sundblom’s recreation of the image of Santa as the jolly, portly, bearded soul in the red suit with white fur trimming.

That image became the cornerstone of Coke Christmas campaigns from that day on. Now while Coke doesn’t own Santa – there is an argument that they cemented the image of Santa in modern Popular Culture such that it is now hard to conceive of any other representation.


At Sesimi, we pride ourselves on being able to help your brand become an icon by giving you the tools to spread your message far and wide. The step to becoming an icon is what separates Sesimi from everyone else – we offer brand consistency and will put your ad into any medium, anywhere, instantly.