Want to make your brand stand out? Great! Brands need to build a range of distinctive visual assets to help them do that. As Byron Sharp, a leading marketing scientist says “to encourage brand loyalty a brand must stand out so that buyers can easily, and without confusion, identify it. Branding must have qualities that distinguish the brand from other competitors.”

But in recent years it seems like many major brands have forgotten how to do that. To show you what I mean let’s look at the world of fashion, and in particular the recently redesigned Burberry logo. Now to be fair this doesn’t seem so bad at first does it? It’s a modern update to a classic brand mark and it is definitely a logo that works for a luxury brand. So what could be the problem here?

The problem comes when look at it compared to other recent re-designs from the same category. As you can see, there’s a little bit of a problem here. Although it’s fair to say the old logos could have used a little clean up for the modern era, they are also clearly distinguishable from each other as Byron suggests. But in attempting to modernise, all three brands have got rid of those all-important distinguishing qualities and ended up with very similar logos.

Distinctive Assets

As leading marketing expert David Aaker points out, “If a brand fails to differentiate, customers have no basis for choosing it over others.” In other words, your brand needs to be noticably different from competitor brands, and from market leaders if you want to get noticed and bought. That’s why many brands have a library of distinctive assets to help them do that.

So what is a distinctive asset when it’s at home? Well, it’s any visual thing that represents your company. You know the saying “a brand is more than a logo?” It’s true, because a distinctive asset can be a character, a symbol, a tagline, packaging design, advertising styles, colours, imagery and more. And when you use your distinctive assets together, your advertising should look like you and not someone else.

A practical example

Let’s look at a good example of that in action, this time from the world of Mortgages (yeah I know, yaaaaaawn, but stick with me.)

This is fairly typical of the kind of imagery you’d see on a mortgage advert. As you can see, the temptation would be to use some standard images of a family with a friendly advisor or in their new home. All very cuddly. There’s nothing wrong with this in theory. But it’s not distinctive.

Now compare that to this ad for Habito. Here you can see a couple of distinctive assets; a unique advertising style, the keys symbol and the phrase “hell or Habito.” The visual style turns what would have been a boring ad into something striking and interesting. To be honest, it doesn’t even look like a mortgage advert. But that’s kinda the point. The fact that it’s so different is the reason that there’s literally no chance you’d mix it up with another brand. Job done.

Distinctiveness Checklist

So if you want to get more for your marketing buck, take a leaf out of Habito’s book. Here’s how.

First, you need to find out what everyone else in your industry is doing. What type of images or colours do they all use? What are the same-old things that they all say about quality, innovation and trust? What’s the same creative studio everyone is using? Once you know these things you can avoid them at all costs.

Second, make sure you “look like yourself and not someone else.” We now know from years of research that people default to the market leader. So for glasses they think Specsavers, for vacuum cleaners they think Dyson, and people call almost anything that plays music an iPod. If you’re not the market leader, this is the last thing you want. So like Habito you need to make it crystal clear that this advertising isn’t for the market leader (or any other brand for that matter.)

Finally, being different is a powerful commercial tool. Being different allows you to turn a dizzying array of similar choices into a much simpler one for your customers. That’s because a distinctive brand is easier to find and choose. And if you can reduce the need for your customers to think in a buying situation there’s more chance they’ll choose your brand over another one.

And that’s pretty hard to argue with.

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