Branding: Is different more effective than better?
In the design space there is an increasing presence of sheep. Many designers are jumping on the bandwagons of the top ‘influencers’ and content is being regurgitated like I’ve never seen before. It’s become so visual that I’ve had to switch off, step back and take a breather from what has become an onslaught of ‘Edu-tainment’ (term I learnt from gdayfrank.com).
If you aren’t a designer, you may not be seeing this in the online space but no doubt you have seen trends within your industry. I remember in 2018 looking at the rise in ‘Eco-brands’ where everyone was implementing a circle logo, floral motif and some hand drawn font. I couldn’t tell one brand from another on first sight.
Then there was the growth in wellness brands, and curated Instagram feeds filled with beige, cream and latte colour pallets and women with tanned skin wearing sandals and white linen.
Big brands have moved from iconic logotypes and are now opting for more minimal non discript, sans serif fonts.
I want to address this because I believe we are getting it wrong. We are choosing to follow trends and trying to be better than the competitor brand, rather than differentiate.
In Jasmine Bina’s article ‘The 16 Rules of Brand Strategy’ she discusses this topic of ‘Different vs Better’. “Strong brands are unique. They say and do something different than other brands. They take a unique tone, follow a controversial belief or see the future through a different lens.”
Audiences connect with brands who understand them. When a buyer can see part of themselves in that brand, the connection is strong. Brands that take a stand and brands that communicate with a different message to the competitors are the ones that reap the benefits.
‘Being Better’ is more aligned with comparison, more concerned with others successes and failures and less concerned about individual business growth.
So how can your brand move from it’s ‘same-samesy’ and start focussing on becoming a brand with differentiation at the core?
First start with WHY you are doing what you are doing in business. For me, and my business, the people and the stories are the reason I do this work. I love the unique stories that accompany the businesses I work with. The reasons they choose business and the goals they are driven to achieve. The human connection and my skills supporting my clients to communicate their brand story more clearly to their audience.
My business is different because I rarely say ‘yes’. I will always first ask ‘why’. My process won’t be for everyone. My business won’t be for ‘the quick fix’ and it won’t be for the ‘I need a green logo’ customers. My business is different because I learn about my clients, I want to know what makes them tick, why they do what they do and how they feel about it. I am a strong supporter of mental health and a kindness advocate. I want to give people the space and time to evolve.
While I may not be the brand consultant for everyone, I have been the right fit for the clients who say ‘we need your advice, what do you think we should do in this situation’, or ‘we need to get this message across, how can we best achieve this?’
Differentiating your brand through design strategy and communication is essential to becoming memorable.
Recently, a client told me she wants her brand to be the ‘purple cow’ (a term made popular by Seth Godin). She is ready to cause a stir in her industry. This is exciting, she will be polarising in some areas but her brand will be communicating from a place of belief, research and the knowledge that there are alternative narratives to those dominating her industry.
I’d love to know, has your brand been comfortable too long, following trends, and focusing on being better? or are you ready to delve deeper into communicating with your audience and telling your unique brand story?