The Beehive of Approval: Branding with the Beehive

Advertisements are perhaps the most visible use of the beehive in Utah. Employing the beehive alongside related images and words, these ads promote a variety of businesses, products, and services, ranging from home inspections to homemade soap. A search of Utah business licenses using terms such as “beehive,” “bee,” “honey,” and “Deseret” produces hundreds of results. In addition to business names, the beehive also appears in logos.

Beehives, in word or image, identify businesses and products as local to Utah. In turn, companies may convey a sense that they are more knowledgeable about Utahns’ needs. Additionally, by using a familiar image, businesses create a connection with potential customers. 

Marketing and branding with beehives is not unique to present-day Utah. Businesses of Utah’s past also used the beehive for this purpose. Similar symbols from the period, such as the all-seeing eye, were primarily used only in churches or temples. The beehive, as researchers Susan and Richard Oman, explain 

"is a notable exception—a nineteenth-century “logo” which is still a common Utah and Mormon motif. But unlike the all-seeing eye, the beehive motif, though it continued to function “officially,” was from the beginning adopted spontaneously on businesses, homes, and household objects” (Oman, 116).

Men posed in front of a ZCMI store window display, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sculpture of an Eagle on a Beehive on the Storefront of Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) in Salt Lake City (circa 1870). J. Willard Marriot Library University of Utah, 2006.

A Logo of Long Ago

During the territorial period, it was difficult and expensive to ship common goods out west. Storeowners, primarily ones who were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often took advantage of this by setting high prices.

These high prices led Brigham Young to boycott “non-member” goods. In 1868 he organized the Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI), a network of stores where Church members could buy items at a fixed price. Most of these goods were produced locally in the Territory of Utah, primarily by Church members. This commercial system kept profits within the Church while providing for its members. In so doing, the ZCMI promoted thrift, industry, and unity among Church members, all principles associated with the beehive.  

The first ZCMI store opened in Salt Lake City in 1869. The space above the main display window featured a carved ornament of an eagle with outstretched wings perched on top a beehive. This imagery identified the store as being associated with the Church, signaling to potential customers who the store owner and clientele were.