Image source: icrc.org
Since 1914 the Red Cross has been stitching their logo, a simple red cross, into the left sleeve of their participants so they could be identified by people in distress. This international organization, one of the few allowed to cross battle-torn borders peacefully to provide lifesaving aid to non-combatants, has endeared the public heart to their white and red logo. How did their simple embroidery become more than simple embroidery?
The Beginnings of an Icon
The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent was established as a humanitarian aid and relief organization 150 years ago, validated in Geneva under international law to provide assistance to all those in need. Their nonprofit work spans close to 190 countries, and though their uniforms have evolved over time, the simple red and white cross remains an unmistakable image during a crisis. The colors were chosen as a reverse of the Swiss flag, the home country of the foundation, and quickly made a bright and bold statement during the World Wars.
Bringing Exposure to Your Organization
Though the Red Cross made an impact by traversing into the World Wars by providing nursing care to wounded soldiers, delivering clothing to prisoner of war camps, and assembling food packages for starving countries, it is possible to learn from their example and make a statement in a less dramatic way. The secret to the Red Cross Red Crescent visibility is the insignia on their clothing. The organization produces a multitude of apparel for their field and at-home volunteers, all 13 million of them. Most commonly seen is the red-thread stitched cross or crescent an inch from the shoulder on the left sleeve of an official volunteer. There are also the simple white T-shirts with a print of a red cross on the back. A bold insignia is the fastest way to be remembered by anyone you come across. It’s entirely doable to make a mark in people’s minds by picking the right color or the right symbol. The way to do it is to make a splash. Marathons, commercials, visual expos at conferences are the best way to start spreading the word about your organization. Choosing a symbol with spiritual, historical, or pop-culture connotation is another easy way to ensure people recognize and remember you.
Conformity is Sometimes a Good Thing
Whether it's caring for survivors of a tsunami aftermath, serving the homeless out of their food trucks, or standing outside a grocery store during the holidays, all Red Cross volunteers are recognizable by the large, two-foot cross on the back of their shirts or jackets. The uniform standard changes depending on the setting, but the insignia is always found on the shoulder, breast, and when applicable the back of a volunteer's shirt. Conforming your employees and representatives through a single article of clothing automatically connects the eye to the idea. If you look organized and united, people will think you are organized and united. Appearance is incredibly important to market your brand, and your employees are walking billboards.
When the American Red Cross needed to distinguish its Life Saving Corps of nurses from the armed forces nurses, they donned them all in grey and white dresses with matching caps, threaded with the red cross insignia in the center. The totality of their uniform, the perfect conformity of it, showed that the Red Cross was a serious professional staff ready to get to work.
A Lasting Impression to Rival the Red Cross
Image source: icrc.org
Looking at a centennial organization is intimidating, but the reputation of the Red Cross cannot be doubted. A durable embroidery an inch from the shoulder might just be enough to catch someone's eye. It communicates professionalism, organization, and care. Perhaps an international presence isn't quite what you're looking for, but it is worth learning from their strategy. You want an insignia that’s memorable, simple, and easy to replicate on anything—caps, shirts, pencils, coffee cups. You want colors that are bold and can be found all throughout your company. And most of all, you don’t want to underestimate the power of clothing to make a lasting, favorable impression on your brand.