The end is nigh for the dead lion.

What many people believe was the world’s strangest brand icon looks set to disappear. 143 years after it was introduced the ‘famous’ dead and rotting lion surrounded by bees logo used by Lyle’s Golden Syrup since 1881 been replaced on some of the bottles and the website.

It probably won’t be long before the rest of the range follows suit.  I expect supply line issues or existing stock is all that is holding it back.

The full logo which contains the biblical quote “out of strong came forth sweetness” is based on the story of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands.

He returns a few days later to find a hive of bees in the carcass and he takes some of the (sweet) honey they made and feeds it to his parents.

I told a fuller version in my 2017 book of brand stories “How Coca-Cola Took over the World” and you can also find it on my website or read it below

In their announcement of the change, Lyle’s said the branding has been “revitalized for the modern UK family” in a move to “refresh the brand’s legacy to appeal to a 21st-century audience”

The new logo is certainly more modern and I’m glad to say does retain both the lion and a bee…

But it does lack the detail the more direct link to the story and the distinctiveness of the original. Let’s see how long it lasts. Another 143 years?

The Strangest Brand Icon In The World (from How Coca-Cola took over the world)

Lions, with their size, huge manes, and majestic appearance, are known as “the king of beasts” and have long been used as a symbol of strength, power, leadership, and even royalty in art and literature.

It’s not surprising, then, that there are many brands that have chosen a lion as their brand icon. They include ING, Peugeot, MGM, and the English Premier League, to name just a few.

There is however one brand that uses a dead lion as its logo. Indeed, it’s not just a dead lion, but an image of a lion’s rotting carcass surrounded by a swarm of bees.

The brand is Lyle’s Golden Syrup, one of the oldest brands in Britain.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup began life as a by-product from refining sugar cane. However, Abram Lyle discovered that the treacly substance could be turned into a delicious preserve and sweetener for cooking. He developed his production methods and started canning the syrup at Plaistow Wharf in London’s Docklands.

Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man and herein lies the reason for the dead lion.

Chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament tells the tale of Samson travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he is set upon by a lion, which he kills. When he passes the same spot on his way back, he sees the lion is still there, but now it is covered in a swarm of bees and they have made a honeycomb in its carcass.

Samson later turns this vision into a riddle he poses at a wedding: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”

The latter part of the quote “out of the strong came forth sweetness” and the image of the dead lion’s carcass complete with the swarm of bees have been the brand’s icon since 1904, when they were registered as a trademark.

The lion, the bees and the words remain on the tins today.

And the moral is, the best designs don’t just identify, they signify something. Does your brand’s design do more than just identify it as your brand?

By: Giles Lury

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