Skip to main content

I’ve just returned from a family holiday in Hawaii (The Aloha State) and I have to say, to be able to travel after a couple years of Covid home detention was even more liberating than ever.

Getting off the plane, I felt an immediate change in the energy around me. “Aloha!” A warm, beautiful smile accompanied the faces of everyone who greeted us.

“Aloha” means much more than a salutation – it is an extension of love, trust, peace, and well-being. It symbolises the Hawaiian way of living, and it’s not only said; it’s lived and breathed, and using it creates a natural, relaxed bond.

It’s also been used in the official slogan for Hawaii for over 60 years. “The Aloha State” slogan was officially coined in 1959 – the same year Hawaii was adopted as a state in the US and it’s been used ubiquitously ever since in all aspects of Hawaiian life and in tourism marketing.

There’s some great lessons in the “Aloha” story for brands.

The biggest lesson is this first one. In today’s marketplace, owning a simple word or concept is an effective way of standing out from your competitors. It must be something unique that your competition can’t copy. Stake a claim on a unique word or phrase that can only be associated with you. “Aloha” is a great example of this.

Like “Aloha”, your one-word brand idea needs to be multi-faceted and aspirational – so that it can mean different things to different customer groups. Nike’s “Just do it” simple brand idea is a good example. To some, “just do it” means just take one step, start getting active. To others, it is an aspirational message to see what other people have accomplished and “just do it” themselves.

Find a great brand idea and stick with it. It’s tempting to re-invent the branding wheel every few years, but Hawaii has shown the value of consistency by sticking with “Aloha” for over 60 years. Over time, it has been adopted for use in many different contexts and products. It is used throughout tourism campaigns and on every type of merchandise you can imagine. The Honolulu Police even use it in their by-line, “Serving and protecting with aloha.”

Your one-word brand idea needs to be deeply rooted in your customers culture and stand for something that is larger than your product or service. Nike’s controversial Colin Kaepernick campaign is a great example of this.

Integrate your one-word brand idea into the everyday language and lexicon of terminologies used in your business. In Hawaii the use of “Aloha” is everywhere in many different contexts and products from ad campaigns and slogans to names of businesses in many different product categories. It’s simply omnipresent.

I hope these holiday reflections will help you “Aloha” your brand.