What Happens When a Brand’s Logo Takes on its Own Meaning?

The red pegasus may be Mobil’s trademark logo, but for Dallasites, it’s become a part of the city’s identity.

By Caroline Covington & Alexandra HartJune 3, 2016 2:55 pm| ,

This week the Dallas Morning News reported that ExxonMobil, the Irving-based oil giant, was forcing a local store called Red Pegasus Games and Comics to change their logo.

The red pegasus has become part of the ExxonMobil brand, but it’s something else too – which may be why the comic book store wanted to use that red pegasus in the first place. Back in the day, a neon and porcelain pegasus shone high above Dallas, visible for miles, almost like the city’s own version of the Statue of Liberty. It became a beacon for people who have a strong sense of place. After it was taken down, it was missed so much that it was refurbished, and recently went back on display in front the Omni Dallas Hotel.

That’s how deeply embedded the symbol is in the city’s identity. It’s a corporate logo, but is it possible the pegasus logo has become bigger than the brand itself? Gary Wilcox, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the icon has become a part of the identity for the people of Dallas.

“I would say it belongs to the people,” Wilcox says, “because the people have really made it what it is – a symbol that a corporation, company started with, and people have gravitated to that over the years as they have many other, what we’ll call advertising icons.”

He says that Exxon should embrace the way that the logo has come to signify more than just the Mobil brand itself.

“Obviously I’d tell them to celebrate that, because that’s an icon they’ve acquired,” Wilcox says. “They’ve got the benefit of some many years of branding, and I’d say celebrate that and invite consumers to enjoy that.”