peace heartbelo

Can a company brand a feeling? Because AirBNB has just announced their new logo includes the Bélo, a symbol that represents “belonging.”

Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind. So to represent that feeling, we’ve created a symbol for us as a community. It’s an iconic mark for our windows, our doors, and our shared values. It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong wherever it happens to be.”

Founded in 2007 by two guys who wanted to share their idea of seeing the world via coach surfing, now valued at $10 million, AirBNB is a company that helps you rent your home or find one to rent when you travel. Beyond online travel booking, it offers a non-touristy option for travelers who want an authentic “like the locals” experience.

It’s actually a lovely brand story. One I probably wouldn’t been interested in looking into if I hadn’t heard some colleagues snickering about a site set up to mock the Bélo. Now I’m kinda going to check into it further because it seems like it could be an affordable way to see places I’d never really thought about before. So if the logo was intended to make a splash, it worked and then some.

But I wasn’t sure I jump on board with the idea that a for-profit company just decided to create a symbol for “a sense of belonging.”

The first universal symbol I thought of that could compare to this was the peace sign. Did a company create this as part of their identity too? The answer is no. A British graphic artist created the famous circular symbol to use on banners for a nuclear disarmament rally held in London in 1958. The simple symbol caught on in the U.S. and was used in Civil Rights demonstrations and Vietnam War protests in the ‘60s. So, no for-profit company created it.

What about the heart as love? Starting in the 14th century, a version of the heart representing romantic love started appearing in art, but didn’t start becoming a popular culture staple till the 19th Century when it was used on products like candy and Valentine’s cards to signify romance. Again, no for-profit company created it.

What do you think? Can a company create a logo to represent a feeling? Will the Bélo always be associated with the company that paid for it to be designed by an agency? Or will the origins eventually be forgotten as with designer Gerald Holtom’s peace sign for that rally way back in the ‘50s?