Selling God, spiritual beliefs, blessings and superstitions is the original big business and like all organizations, religions use visual devices for branding themselves. The marketing techniques may have evolved along with technology, yet one thing amongst most religions has stayed incredibly consistent: their branding.
To me, that’s very interesting. I mean think about it; unlike prolific brand marks of our times like the Nike swoosh or the Apple apple, some of these religious symbols have been in circulation for centuries if not thousands of years. Lets take a look at some of these brand marks … those belonging to religions big and small, old and new.
- Founded: 19th century
- Favored branding: 9 pointed star
Relative new comer to the business of religion is the Bahai Faith. The Bahai seem to use a few symbols when branding their organization — yet supposedly favor above all — a 9-pointed star. Word has it the itself star isn’t part of the Bahai teachings but used simply to represent the number “9” due to the Bahai associating the number 9 with perfection, unity and Baha (an Arabic word for “glory” or “splendor.”)
- Founded: Approx. 544 BC
- Favored branding: Bhudda himself
Bhuddism is one of the world’s oldest major religons and has a reported 376 million practicing followers. Like most religions, Bhuddist also have many symbols, however the preferred one Bhudda himself, a man which Buddhists believe was an “awakened teacher”. Depiction of the Bhudda ranges from a serious yet serene looking figure to a jolly, chubby fellow sitting comfortably in simple robes with his big belly showing. Since their are no best practices for depicting Bhudda, I’ve opted to show him as a silhouette to reflect because he comes in so many shapes!
- Founded: 1st century
- Favored branding: Cross
This one needs no introdcution. Early on in Christianity, the cross superseded the Ichthus (commonly known as the “Jesus Fish”) as the predominant device used for branding Christianity. The cross represents the crude, wooden structure upon which Jesus was killed. The Christian cross is arguably one of the most recognized symbols on the planet. With the Nike swoosh hot on it’s heels!
- Founded: Approx. 1300 BC
- Favored branding: Magain David
The oldest of the Jewish symbols is the Menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum (candle stick) used in Jewish temples. In recent times, the Magain David (commonly known as the Star of David) is the symbol most commonly associated with Judaism. Jewish teachings link this star to the “Seal of Solomon”, a magical ring used to control demons and spirits; as well as linking it to a magic shield owned by King David. In modern times, the star has been used as the favored branding device by Jewish Communities and by Israel itself, which features is on the national flag.
- Founded: Unknown
- Favored branding: Aum
There are ten important symbols in the Hindu faith but Aum, (also written and pronounced “Om” and also known as pranava) is the most dominant of all the Hindu symbols. Hindus believe that the prolonged intonation of the Om sound is associated with the primeval sound from which the universe was created. It is also believed that the sound contains “all things”. The Om symbol is the favored device used for branding all things Hindu … and loads of products found in smoke shops.
Featured on the flags of many Islamic nations, the most well know symbol of Islam is the star and crescent. Although the most widely recognized Islamic symbol, its origins apparently aren’t so much Muslim as they are Ottoman. The Ottoman turks ruled a massive area which encompassed many Muslim nations so they pretty much had the final say.
- Founded: 1930s
- Favored branding: Lion
Rastafarians are also comparative new comers. This religion believes in both Jesus Christ and Haile Sellaise I (former Emperor of Ethiopia) as incarnations of God, which they call Jah. Rastas use the lion as their preffered brand mark because Jesus was described as “the lion of Judah” in the Bible and it was also the symbol of Haile Sellaise I.
- Founded: 1950s
- Favored branding:
Newest of all the religions on our list is Scientology which was founded in the 1950s by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. The main device used by Scientologists is an “S” with two triangles called the “ARC triangle” and the “KRC triangle”. The points on the lower triangle are said to represent “Affinity, Reality and Communication” while the points on the upper triangle are meant to represent “Knowledge, Responsibility and Control”.
- Founded: 722 BC
- Favored branding: Taijitu
Almost everyone is familiar with the Taijitu, or “yin and yang” symbol of Taoism. This is the preferred symbol Taoist organizations use for branding. The symbol makes a backwards “S” shape and has even been used by the famous Town & Country surf company. Taoists use the symbol to represent how opposing forces are bound to each other, intertwined and interdependent; each giving rise to each other in turn.
Authors note: The bulk of the information, dates and statistics gathered for this article was attained from Wikipedia.
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