Don’t be a sheep, make your brand stand out from the crowd

We humans love learning new things. We soak up knowledge like sponges. And in this new world of entrepreneur rock stars, we can’t get enough information about it, because we all want to be one, don’t we?

There’s a tonne of information online written by digital gurus, motivational speakers, entrepreneurs, business coaches, and a whole variety of marketing and creative types. Sure, it’s mostly the same old stuff recycled and repackaged, and a lot of the people offering to help you haven’t actually ‘been there and done that’ themselves. But hey, regardless, all the advice about building a strong brand heads towards the same conclusion… be authentic, be you, and stand out from the crowd. As Apple once stated, albeit with slightly suspect grammar; Think Different.

Well, that has always been the case, this is not new thinking. For decades prior to the internet and an online world, brands still had to carve out their own unique position and use images, words, attitude, actions… and create a visual identity to help pull it all together. Pre-internet, we used to say corporate identity rather than brand identity, because a brand back then was a packet of washing powder, a tangible product on a shelf, not a service like Uber or Airbnb. Another popular term being used was differentiation by design which still stands true today. When a bunch of competing products are basically the same, offer the same, do the same; then a smart way to gain a competitive advantage is to design your product to look different and stand out. Or at least, your brand identity and packaging. Design is a powerful tool, but so few people invest in it or use it properly.

Today, we have a problem. We are in such a rush to create our brands and be entrepreneurs and get to market quickly, many of us are rushing the most important part of the process, or taking short-cuts. We are not stopping to figure out exactly who we are, why we want to do what we do, who we want to talk to, how we want to talk to them… and ask do they even want what we have to offer them. Without this research and information, how can we create a unique strategic position for our company/brand? And even with it an understanding of our offering, not everyone is translating that into a distinctive brand positioning and visual identity, but choosing to default to a sheep mentality and play it safe by doing and saying what others are doing.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” — Oscar Wilde

I wrote about craft breweries previously, and will use them as a perfect example again. Of all the breweries popping up, many of whom are making great beer, quite a few are not stopping to think about their positioning and how that can translate into a distinctive brand identity and story. I’ve seen at least three breweries now in a 100 mile radius, all putting different illustrations on their bottles or cans, from different artists, and a barely noticeable little text block on the side with their name and product details. It was a great idea for the brewery that did it first, they had a strategy and came up with a visual identity that made them different. But the other breweries that copied, what were they thinking? I’m guessing they simply thought it was cool! But being cool is not enough to build a successful brand. Now it’s hard to tell them all apart, all of their products taste great, but where’s the differentiation by design? Where’s their Why and authentic story? Now they have all become lost in a sea of visual mediocrity on the shelf, and reduced to a mere commodity. Do you think that’s good?

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against play-it-safers, the creatures of commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” — Cecil Beaton

Don’t be an unimaginative sheep, and simply follow trends because that’s what others are doing. If anything, at least research your market and if you see a visual trend, certain colours and fonts being used, make sure you do something completely different! Greatness and success are rarely ever achieved by being a follower.

– Simon Burn

Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. — Charles Kuralt
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