Think of any industry and you’re sure to have one or two brands pop right into your head. Behemoths like Spotify, Nike, Starbucks and the rest all had to start out somewhere, and they all had to find their own unique brand distinction. Your business is no different.
The digital space is overwhelmed by a large volume of brands hoping to achieve brand distinction. In reality, only a small number of companies are doing it well. Making your brand stand out in a crowded market is a big task, but it’s not impossible (especially when you have the right help).
What’s the difference between branding and design? Well, design is how you achieve successful branding—it’s the nuts and bolts that make up your overall branding strategy. Without smooth, well-thought-out design, your branding strategy will be inconsistent and leave you wondering where all your customers are. Check out this infographic we made for a visual representation:
Building a distinctive brand goes beyond having a nice visual design. You first need to decide on your story before sketching logo ideas or experimenting with colors. What is your company or product about, and why should people care? What drives you? What do you want to inspire people to do? What is your ‘why’?
Your company’s narrative is everything. It’s how your customers will identify (and hopefully relate to) you. When thinking of your brand narrative, try to dilute your core essence into one short sentence or idea. If you can’t do that, then there are larger problems at play in your business plan
Original stories are the bedrock of distinctive brands, they determine how strong the bond with your customers will be. If rightly applied to business, they humanize your company or product, making it easier for people to relate with and establish emotional connections with you.
People always remember how you made them feel, even if they don’t know much about you. So how can you incorporate your story into your design for a more significant brand distinction?
Think of it this way: brand design is to a business as fashion is to humans. You can tell a lot about a person by how they dress and how they want to be perceived by the wider world. In developing your brand design, you need to think in the exact same way: do you want to be casual and approachable? Or formal and luxurious?
Having a brand personality is the secret weapon challenger companies use in stealing market share from established companies. Building it involves collaborating with key stakeholders to outline core values and create a mission statement which then forms the basis of the brand. It is essential to find out:
This is the point in your branding or rebranding process that you onboard branding and design personnel for optimal results.
Once you have a core understanding of what makes your brand unique, you can develop your brand style guide. This should be your company’s manifesto of your typography, colors, aesthetics, and core themes. Make this style guide exhaustive: to be able to successfully share your story, your design team needs to know every single facet of your brand.
Customers expect to have the same experience across all channels, and being consistent helps reinforce your personality, boost visibility and establish the brand in their minds.
The saying ‘If you design for everyone, you delight no one’ can be applied here. You wish to offer a fantastic product to the world, so you assume that accommodating every customer type is the way to go, right? Wrong. Find your customer niche and tailor your brand to fit their values. People are inherently different due to varying experiences, values and perceptions. So while they may all need a product, if your brand personality doesn’t align with theirs, they will seek an alternative.
After determining your target audience, research beyond their demographics. Know what they need, what they care about, how they relate, and so on. People associate with brands they feel share the same values, so insights like these are pure gold in building distinctive brands.
Your visual design entails logos, typography, colors, mascots, and many more design assets that blend to create your brand look. However, the primary asset is the logo design, which sets the tone for the brand and business. With about 75% of people relying on logos to identify a brand, it is the face of your service, so you need experts to help you design a logo that is memorable, unique and true to your story.
After creating a visual identity that communicates your company's core idea, you might discover that some of your visual elements are similar to other brands. Don’t fret; this is common, especially with color choices. Depending on your industry, you might use the same color combinations as your direct competitors, for instance, Black in the fashion industry, red in the food & beverage industry, green in healthcare and environmental organizations, and so on. This is because colors have connotations that psychologically influence people who come across them. For example, blue communicates calm and trust, making it the most preferred color among brands.
However, building distinctive brand assets and becoming unique while still communicating your core values is possible.
Sometimes, to have a successful brand, you need to make smart bets and disrupt the design status quo in your industry. Paul Rand, widely known as the father of graphic design, once said that "design is the silent ambassador of your brand." But what happens when you need a loud voice to stand out among a thousand similar brands?
This is where disruption comes into play.
In our work with Doodle Labs, which sought to form an emotional connection with its customers and improve brand visibility, we employed a creative yet strategic approach to reinventing its brand.
Disrupt with color. Doodle Labs, like many others, had faded into the background in an industry defined by the color blue. While it might seem like a no-brainer to pick a random color different from the rest, colors, as we explained earlier, are symbolic, and you have to be careful not to send the wrong signals. To make a new color work, you need a complete overhaul of all brand elements (including logo design, typography, iconography, illustrations, etc.) and create a cohesive strategy involving marketing, design, and everyone interfacing with customers. For us at Superside, this means close collaboration with clients to understand the brand, strategy, and needs to lay a foundation of consistency and avoid a disjointed representation that harms your business.
Disrupt your personality. With a bold new color, everyone expects you to be ‘different.’ After all, there has to be a reason you deviated from the status quo. This allows you to achieve brand distinction by making a powerful impression on your target audience through a well-crafted personality. With well-designed brand identity and guidelines, this personality can be consistently expressed across different customer touchpoints, from websites to newsletters, so that you look different and sound different, making your brand distinct and memorable.
Standing out from the crowd requires a deliberate effort to create unique brand elements that trigger people’s recollection of your product with minimal effort. It could be a sound, the shape of your product, colors, or even scents. For instance, a drawing of an apple immediately brings Apple Inc. to mind, even when unintended. These assets are so ingrained in people’s psyches that the brands no longer need an introduction.
Otherwise known as ‘brand code,’ these assets are not limited to companies and products. They are also prevalent in our everyday lives. Remember social media personalities who wear the same outfit for all of their videos until you associate such clothes with them?That’s their brand code.
However, not all of your elements can be distinct. For an element to be classified as a distinctive brand asset, it has to be exclusive and popularly associated with your brand. This requires consistent branding and marketing strategies to achieve brand distinction.
We live in an information age where we’re constantly processing tons of digital content, and our minds are conditioned to sift out ‘perceived lesser important’ information to lessen the cognitive load. So while people may watch your advert up to 10 times a day, there is a high probability they won’t recall it. A survey by Havas Group revealed that people would not be bothered if 77% of brands disappeared because they are easily replaceable.
As such, it is essential now more than ever to consolidate your marketing plans with outstanding designs and branding. Distinctive brands employ these assets to help customers recognize, recall, and consign their services to memory. They are responsible for establishing emotional bonds between the brand and its customers and transforming the business into a globally recognized brand.
Building distinctive brand assets start with research. If you have already launched your company or product, find out what your customers love about you. It could be your brand mascot, illustrations, or the use of memes when communicating with them.
You then need to audit all your design and brand components to identify which are unique and popular enough to become a brand code. Ideally, it would be best to aim for 3 to 4 assets.
Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science also developed a Distinctive Assets Grid to help companies discover what elements work best for their brand. It takes a customer-centric approach to measure the strength of individual assets, as only customers can provide accurate insights on what brand elements stand out to them.
With customer feedback, you can group your brand assets according to the grid and determine which to avoid, improve, or focus your marketing efforts on.
If you guessed Mastercard, you’re absolutely spot on.
Another excellent example of a brand distinction is the Netflix ‘Ta-dum!’ sound that plays at the start of every video on Netflix. This sonic logo was developed to give viewers a cinematic feel and was tested on focus groups in a design process that took almost a year to complete.
Distinctive brands owe their successes to a fine blend of consistent marketing and good design. Integrating the brand code across all marketing channels reinforces the link between assets and the brand in customers' minds. And the best part is that you can achieve your marketing goals while attaining brand distinction at the same time.
Marketing is also the best way to make people recognize you through your brand code, but it cannot be achieved overnight.
In this advert, Doritos dropped its logo to boost its colors and product shape.
If that seems too risky right now, here are some other types of marketing you can explore:
Content marketing is an effective tool to generate traffic and build a solid online presence. When creating blog posts, articles, case studies, and other forms of content, make sure to incorporate your distinctive brand assets. Consistently promoting your brand code through content will make it easier for your audience to recognize and remember your brand.
Social media is essential for building relationships and engagement with your target audience, so incorporating your brand code here is crucial for success. Post visually appealing content that showcases your designs and highlights your brand code, observe how people react to them, and iterate. Also, make sure to use your distinctive brand assets in all advertisements and promotional materials.
Influencer marketing is a great way to reach new audiences and promote your designs and brand. Partner with influencers in your niche who have a strong following and a connection with your target audience. In pairing with these influencers, make sure that they truly enjoy your product or service. After all, these influencers are your key customer persona; if they love your brand and product, then you’re doing well.
If you’re a fast-growing brand, it’s natural for there to be some growing pains. The large majority of businesses struggle to scale their brand to appeal to a wider audience, especially if they have a small in-house design team or a loose collection of freelancers.
Feel like you have some questions you need answered about scaling your brand? No worries, just book a call with us and we can get you started on the path to creating a true challenger brand.