Scarily – HMRC achieves instant brand recognition

Unwittingly or not, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) has to be in the pantheon of top brands when it comes to instant brand recognition. Their ubiquitous beige envelope hits all the bases – look, feel, even smell. It is unique, it stands out and it creates an instant emotional response.

This brand delivers an outstanding emotional hit – one of aversion rather than desire. It is a brand of the dark side.

We know that the key to a successful brand is in its ability to generate a powerful emotional response in us. And it is this response that increases awareness of the brand and everything that it stands for. Emotions are triggered by the aggregation of stimuli from our senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. These are cues that set off uncontrollable, internal chain reactions demanding attention, creating powerful desires or aversions. When the power of brand is unleashed decisions happen before we are conscious – consciousness is an affirmation of the decision rather than the driver. The brand is your decision maker not the individual.

If there were an alternative league table for brand recognition, then the beige envelope is to HMRC what the classic Coke bottle is to Coca-Cola. It just goes to show that consistency is key – the humble beige envelope was probably chosen for its cost benefit but its value to the HMRC brand is far greater than cost.

What are the elements of your brand that simply set you apart? If you need help finding out, or want to create some new ones, email the team today at