The importance of being different

Want to build a £300m business? Make brave branding decisions. Seriously. Here’s how it’s done…

Ask a business owner what they want from their brand they’ll typically tell you that they want to be different; to stand apart from the competition and capture the attention of clients.

But when it comes to, say, selecting a new brand identity from three different creative routes, most business owners will opt for the slightly safer option. Can I blame them? Not really. Being different in your marketplace can be lonely. It’s uncomfortable and edgy and it takes sustained effort and confidence to pull off.

It’s why fruit juice labels look the same, why every perfume ad reeks of unoriginality and why tech companies all look and sound like tech companies.

Scratch that. Not ‘all’. Almost all.

The breakthrough brands are the ones that look, sound or feel different. When Innocent launched their range of smoothies and juices, they could have easily opted for an illustration of sun-drenched (yet dewy) citrus fruit.

Similarly, humour was out of bounds for estate agents before Purple Bricks came along. And when Tyrrells started out, crisp packet design was all about the ingredients and not definitely not quirky vintage photography.

You can bet that the bosses of all these companies were put on the back foot by these concepts when they were first floated by their creative teams. “So let me get this straight: we aren’t going to have a picture of a salt cellar on our bags of salted crisps, but we are going to have three Victorian women cartwheeling on a beach?!”

As I say, being different is uncomfortable; edgy.

And yet, the audacity and bravery of this single branding decision helped create a company that was sold 14 years later for £300 million.

That sort of stratospheric success is what most business owners crave. After all, market leadership is where it’s at. But to achieve it takes brave, bold, creative branding. And it follows that middle-of-the-road marketing delivers middle-of-the-road results.

Plus, as every business owner knows, brands need to work harder than ever before if they are to even stand still.

Today’s consumers are bombarded with messaging, marketing and conversations. They are used to filtering out brain-jolting amounts of information from any and every channel, and to focussing on just the results they’re interested in or looking for. Everything else becomes white noise.

To reach these audiences takes verve and creativity – and that goes for both B2B and B2C markets. After all, the people making the buying decisions in both sectors are ultimately… people. And while these ‘people’ enjoy the comfort of the familiar, they respond much more keenly to the quirky or creative.

Am I advocating that Mr Widget Maker throws out his marketing playbook and replaces his widget-based logo for one featuring a flamingo on a burning tyre? Of course not. But there are plenty of areas where businesses can push back against convention to get better results from their marketing. Even small steps can make a big difference…

  • Accountants don’t have to be blue. Fast food restaurants don’t have to be red. You get the idea.
  • Would your business grind to a halt if you replaced the team portrait photographs on your website with, say, a 360 degree, zoomable shot of your last team away day? No. In fact, your customers would probably engage with it a lot more. Or could you possibly play with the convention of how a case study ‘should’ be laid out? (Hint: yes.)
  • Your business does not need to use business-speak. (This doesn’t mean you need to sound like Innocent smoothies, by the way.) Make connections with your audience with more approachable language. If you like, you can be totally radical and use ‘The’ at the start of a headline! (Look up the page.)
  • If you can say what you need to say on your website homepage in 200 words, there’s absolutely no need to stretch it out to 500. Remember your readers and they will thank you for it.
  • You know what a premium food brand should look like, right? Probably something like Tesco Finest? Sumptuous photography, black background, serif font? Hmmm. Why should they look like that, exactly?

If you would like to find out more about how a dash of creativity can transform your business, get in touch with me at SIM7 (sim@sim7creative.co.uk).

I promise I won’t suggest a logo featuring a flamingo on a burning tyre.