What makes a brand an icon?

How does a brand gain iconic status? Is it something that you can create yourself or is it something that can only be bestowed on you by others.

These questions crossed my mind when when I stopped at Webers on the way up north last weekend. For those not familiar with Webers, they have been serving burgers and fries on the side of Highway 11 since 1963. As it was the Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend, by early afternoon it was already busy with people heading up to their cottages. It was a scene from a ritual that has been going on for almost 50 years.

Webers_lineupwebers_menuWhat is it about Webers that has allowed it to rise to an iconic status while the most roadside restaurants along this stretch of highway have come and gone? I wondered whether it was the fact that they still cook the burgers over charcoal. Or was it the music – playing that same classic rock Aerosmith song that you heard there in the ‘70s. Or was it just the familiarity and comfort of a routine and the fact that “everyone” stops there and has so for generations.

Food_picIt is the last point that has me wondering whether an icon is really just a portal back to a set of memories. In this case does Webers a serve as a portal to all the great cottage weekends of our past – and a gateway to the anticipation of upcoming fun spent with friends and family? In the end it seems that as both individuals and communities, we enable the creation of these icons to help us make a connection to the things that are important to us.

To paraphrase Mad Men’s Don Draper Kodak Carousel pitch, we create our icons so that they can transport us to a place where we all want to be again.

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