Instant brand of the year: the Red Square

Quebec’s symbol of student protest became a rallying point this year.
Large protest

The red square that symbolized this spring’s student protests in Quebec first appeared in 2004 at a meeting between anti-poverty groups and provincial politicians, according to the McGill Daily. Student activists wore the squares again in 2005 to protest reforms to student aid, laying the foundation for its rise to worldwide prominence this summer as the defining symbol of Quebec students protesting tuition fee hikes.

Students typically pin the red square to their clothing, although it also appeared on signs, Quebec flags and even tattoos sported by some protesters. Media outlets began featuring the square prominently, flashing its image across Quebec, Canada and eventually the world. Celebrities such as Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan and American director Micheal Moore took to Twitter to encourage the students, with the former donning the symbolic square on the red carpet for the premiere of his film Lawrence Anyways at Cannes.

Some brands associated themselves with the symbol, with Montreal craft brewer Brasseurs Illimités releasing a limited edition beer called La Matraque (a police nightstick), whose packaging featured a red square.

David Soberman, marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management wonders how the red square will evolve. “The red square could be more than a brand,” he says. “It could be a rallying point and a call to action.”