The Allure of Distinctiveness: Why Different Stands Out

Yoav Tchelet
3 min readFeb 19, 2024

Stroll down any supermarket aisle, and you’re bombarded by a cacophony of brands vying for your gaze. Online, it’s a digital deluge of advertisements, each clamouring louder than the last. Amid this relentless sea of sameness, how does one brand manage to snag that elusive spotlight of consumer attention?

The secret sauce?

Our brains are hardwired to be novelty-seeking missiles. Enter the Von Restorff effect (or stimulus salience, for those who prefer the scientific lingo), a fascinating quirk of human psychology that magnetises our attention towards anything that dares to deviate from the norm. This phenomenon isn’t just a party trick of the mind; it’s believed to be an evolutionary hack for spotting opportunities (or dodging threats) in the wild.

Fast forward to the modern consumer landscape, and this effect is alive and well, influencing our interactions with products and brands.

Take, for instance, the visual shout that is Tide’s neon orange packaging. Launched into the market in 2005, it was a beacon of brightness in a sea of dreary detergent bottles. The result? A noticeable uptick in sales proves that a change in attire can indeed make the man (or the product, in this case).

And then there’s Charmin, turning the mundane task of buying toilet paper into an encounter with charm and whimsy, thanks to its panda mascot and humorous ads. It’s a masterclass in infusing personality into a product category that’s as generic as they come.

One of the most compelling examples of distinctive marketing comes from the use of colour to create a brand identity and influence consumer behaviour.

A study that exemplifies this is the research on colour’s impact on marketing and brand recognition.

For instance, the work of Satyendra Singh in “Impact of Color on Marketing” provides insightful analysis of how people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with products or environments. About 62–90% of that assessment is based on colours alone (Singh, Satyendra, “Impact of Color on Marketing,” Management Decision, vol. 44, no. 6, 2006, pp. 783–789).

This study illustrates the critical role colour plays in branding, such as how the iconic Tiffany blue box has become synonymous with luxury and exclusivity. The distinctive robin’s egg blue colour used by Tiffany & Co. not only differentiates the brand from competitors but also establishes a visual identity that customers associate with quality and prestige. This strategic use of a unique colour encapsulates how a brand can leverage visual elements to enhance consumer recall and emotional connection.

Tiffany’s utilisation of a specific colour palette demonstrates the tangible benefits of distinctive marketing strategies. The unique Tiffany blue colour is trademarked, underscoring the importance of protecting such distinctive brand elements that contribute significantly to brand recognition and consumer preference.

However, it’s not just about being different for the sake of it. The crux lies in ensuring that this distinctiveness resonates on a deeper level, aligning with the brand’s core values and speaking directly to its audience.

Foot Locker’s “Week of Greatness” campaign is a prime example, offering a fresh take on sports marketing by placing athletes in unexpected, whimsical scenarios. This creative pivot not only set Foot Locker apart but also underscored its deep-seated understanding of sneaker culture.

Similarly, Mailchimp’s offbeat office culture videos and inventive content hub serve as a testament to its commitment to stand out from the stark corporate landscape of its competitors. By weaving humour and humanity into its brand narrative, Mailchimp positions itself as a champion for small businesses, extending beyond the confines of a mere email service provider.

In essence, carving out a distinct niche in the cluttered marketplace of today necessitates a blend of boldness and strategic thoughtfulness. Dare to be different, but ensure that your brand’s distinctiveness is not just a veneer but a reflection of its authentic self and values. By thoughtfully aligning your unique traits with the needs and desires of your audience, you create not just visibility but meaningful engagement.

Remember: Distinctiveness should not be an end in itself but a means to forge more profound, more resonant connections with your consumers.

It’s about striking that delicate balance between standing out and staying true, between being memorably different and genuinely relevant. After all, in the vast expanse of the market’s ocean, it’s the brands that navigate these waters with intention and ingenuity that ultimately capture the hearts (and wallets) of consumers.

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Yoav Tchelet

Yoav Tchelet has over 25 years experience working with some of the world's largest brands, helping them scale and grow their businesses.