Subtle signs

Some of the most widely loved films, from the 1930’s to the present day, have used symbolism. One example is the 1939 classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which was partly a metaphor for the United States keeping the gold standard over paper money and silver currency. There is also the popular children’s favourite ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’, which explored with biblical symbolism - from the book of Genesis, to the New Testament.

Symbology and metaphor

The use of symbolic imagery has long been a component of our culture, especially literature, art and film. Whether it’s taking a simple narrative to symbolise hard hitting questions of morality, faith, or the human condition as a whole, in film it’s been the cause of numerous conspiracy theories over the years. However, with most films the symbolism is usually more harmlessly philosophical than nefarious.

For promotional videos, symbolism can be used to great effect. Think about it, if you’re creating a 3 minute promotional video for a brand, it can be very hard to truly portray exactly what the brand is all about, so using symbolism to push an underlying message will help speak volumes to an audience and potential client base.

Enhancing brand engagement

Writing in Mashable UK, Fabian Geyrhalter talks about how subliminal and hidden design messages can help to really boost brand engagement: “Utilizing design secrets to share underlying themes is a powerful brand statement — one that helps gain buzz and keeps believers lining up for more. Very much like the speakeasy that has no sign out front and is incredibly hard to find, we are attracted to brands that challenge us intellectually and hide elements from plain sight. Seeing and connecting them makes us feel special, and that is one wonderful feeling that a brand can trigger within their audience.”

Fabian is talking about the subliminal and symbolic in brand identity, yet the same rules apply to a promotional video. As an important facet of a brands identity, it’s the perfect audio-visual vessel in which the symbolic can speak louder and make a richer, deeper impact on a viewer than what they see right in front of them.


Incorporating the right symbolism

The process to adding symbolism in a video can sound rather deep, but it is quite simple, once you sit down and take time to think. Colours are a great example, as many of the standard colours each represent different meanings and trigger different emotions. Dark red represents energy, leadership and courage etc, light yellow reflects joy, intellect, freshness and so it goes on.

You can create symbolic meaning by incorporating pretty much anything, from animals to numbers. Just think how you want that brand to be portrayed in video form. A good point of reference is fashion advertising, with men’s brands often using dark, brooding colours to represent aspects of the male psyche and certain objects to represent the many forms of masculinity. On the reverse, many women’s brands will use light colours, representing femininity etc.

As with anything creative, it’s good to brainstorm ideas - creating separate mood boards for direct and indirect portrayals.