Brand Occupy Central

Umbrella revolutionIn this guest post, a Hong Kong creative pieces together the brand of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement Occupy Central.

If you have a passion for viral branding campaigns, you might have also noticed the Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement has all the necessary symbolism, vision, values and personality of a virally successful brand.

Take for instance the brand name. Formerly dubbed ‘The Umbrella Revolution’, many prominent protesters were against such strong language as they fear it encouraged a more hostile view of their political reform goals.

However you call it, the name is quirky, memorable and has a compelling backstory based on the protesters’ peaceful use of umbrellas as a means of shielding one another from pepper spray. These umbrellas have spawned a wide variety of brand visuals, the majority now depicting a yellow umbrella as the signature ‘logo’ of the movement (evolving from previously used yellow ribbons).

Protesters make origami umbrellas in Mong Kok

Protesters make origami umbrellas in Mong Kok

The logo incorporates a number of symbols besides the reference to obvious uses during the protests. Umbrellas are a symbol of a collective, all under one shared set of values, of togetherness in the face of opposition. It’s a symbol of vulnerability, of being unarmed. Also, with Hong Kong’s often unpredictable weather, the umbrella is quite common – anyone can buy one and everyone has one, from the lady at the corner shop to CY Leung. You cannot easily ban umbrellas or their use as a symbol.

Photo: Lam Yik Fei

Photo: Lam Yik Fei

The umbrella is now bound in global consciousness as iconic of the movement, transcending language and borders, with widespread adoption of the symbol by artists, businesses and such widely read publications as TIME magazine. It’s a symbol that is simple, yet powerful, and is reminiscent of the long-standing Black Power salute: a symbol of 1960s African-American autonomy, still used as recently as the Ferguson protests.

Even beyond visual cues of the movement’s brand, language has become more and more united towards a single vision. And although the phrase is more specific to Occupy Central, many wouldn’t hesitate to attribute lines such as “With Peace and Love” as the working tagline of the movement. The brand even has clear values, such as ‘Freedom of Assembly’, ‘Freedom of Speech’, ‘True Universal Suffrage’ and, quite likely, ‘A Better Hong Kong’ (can’t you imagine that on a billboard?).

As for personality, the protesters are renowned for being peacefully sincere, creatively expressive and, quite frankly, courageous as they stand up for their shared values.

If we were to pitch a summary of the brand strategy, it might even look something like this:

The umbrella revolution

However, simply having clear values and widespread visibility doesn’t necessarily constitute a strong brand. What gives the movement its strength is the way it resonates with the target audience.

The movement saw potential for bringing multitudes of Hong Kong citizens together under values they saw were shared but unexpressed. What the movement has done is offer a channel for people to be a part of something they genuinely believe in but may not previously have had the capacity or confidence to do on their own. In many cases, the movement even brought out a latent desire in participants, creating a demand for change in those who didn’t even know they wanted it – an outcome envied by even the most experienced advertisers.

Whether you agree with the movement and its values or not, there’s no denying the group has created something that connects with people and will continue to influence others for years to come.

If anything, the Umbrella Revolution offers the world this: a globally recognized, everyday object transformed.

Democracy itself has a new logo. ☂

The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, works at Hong Kong creative agency Fluid


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