May 23, 2013

A "Stop & Go" brand that sticks

On a recent business trip to Berlin, I heard the story about a source of unique pride for Berliners…the Ampelmann.

The East German traffic light symbols, known as Ampel men, were designed by a traffic psychologist named Karl Peglau, and debuted in 1961. 

“Its design was psychologically conceived, because road-users react more quickly to appealing symbols.

The end of the cute dude with the hat?
The West German authorities, politicians and traffic engineers were critical of the little men on the East German traffic lights, so in 1994 work started on replacing them with the west, or euro, traffic light man.

A resistance movement evolved…the “Committee for the Preservation of Ampel Men” and as I understand it, they were creative with their protests.  Ultimately, once the media got on board, the politicians and bureaucrats really couldn’t ignore them any longer.

The Ampel men were eventually resurrected and became a most popular “brand” for the community, uniting both East and West Berlin…

Once again, STORY & CHARACTER carry the day!
The moral of this story in my opinion was:  YOUR AUDIENCE GETS TO DEFINE THE MEANING OF YOUR BRAND. 

The Ampelmann has had books written about him, and has become somewhat of a cult figure, with television animated series, safety programs for school children, all manner of merchandise, and now even retail outlets and restaurants!

The Ampelmann brand has a secure spot as a beloved Berliner…retaining a bit of East Berlin in the West.  An enduring and meaningful on-the-move brand that communicates much more than “stop” and “go.”

Click here for more about Ampelmann.