What is brand distinctiveness?

What is brand distinctiveness? How to make your brand memorable

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What is brand distinctiveness?

It can be tempting to follow trends and head for the shiniest new marketing thing to raise awareness of your offering, but your brand doesn’t stand as much chance of standing out if you aren’t building your brand strategically.

You want and need your brand to stand out, especially if you’re in a competitive and saturated industry sector which many of us are.

How can we push ourselves ahead of our competitors; so that our brand is the one that gets noticed and is the first one that a customer thinks of when they need to buy our product or service?

Well, this is where brand distinctiveness comes in.

1. How can you make your brand distinctive?
2. How brand elements can become distinctive assets
3. Examples of distinctive brand assets
4. How to make your brand stand out against your competitors
5. Reinforcing your brand distinctiveness
6. Build your brand recognition

For those of you who don't like to read blog posts, here is a video version 😃

How can you make your brand distinctive? 

When you’re looking to buy a product with little differentiation between the features and benefits or pricing, being distinctive can help you win the sale.

What can you use to make your brand distinctive?

You have a few options:

  • A Distinctive Logo or symbol
  • Tagline or slogan
  • Colour
  • Fonts
  • Shape of your product
  • Audible sounds, e.g. music, sounds or jingles

Think about the classic coke bottle as a great example of distinctiveness in product shapes or the Netflix’ tadum’ sound.

By spending time defining these elements and using them consistently everywhere, you create a visual and or audible hook that will resonate and linger in the memory of your hopefully soon-to-be customers.

Building distinctiveness doesn’t happen overnight, though. The element(s) that you’ve chosen need to be seen or heard, or experienced. Again, and again and again repeatedly.

When the customer encounters them, their brand recall is instantaneous, with no hard thinking required. Therefore, it should be your goal to lock your brand’s imagery permanently and sounds into people’s brains.

How your brand elements can become distinctive assets

The list above summarises brand elements, the pieces of the puzzle that create your overall brand image. When they have that impact of being uniquely synonymous with your brand so that clients and customers instantly recognise them, they become valuable assets. These distinctive assets are a creative way of promoting your brand, and as always, the key is consistency.

If you saw an advertisement only once, it’d have to be pretty darn memorable for you to recognise instantly the next time you saw it.

Developing a distinctive asset is a long-term goal. It requires repetition and reinforcement over time to allow your audience to link the elements to your brand.

Examples of big  (and not so big) brand's distinctive assets

There are many distinctive brand assets that the majority of people will instantly recognise.

From the swoosh icon and ‘Just Do It’ tagline of Nike to the three parallel stripes of Adidas. Or the red and white brand colours of Coca Cola to McDonald’s yellow arches, and the distinctive whistle. The list goes on!

OK, so I might not be quite at Coca Cola’s level, but my brand, Pixels Ink, for example, uses several brand elements which I’ve developed and repeatedly used. My trucker caps, my beard and the black and red colour palette that I have everywhere.

As well as visuals, I use phrases like ‘Stay Creative’ and ‘Rock Your Brand®’. These all constitute distinctive elements of my brand and help people recognise my brand and my branded content.

Rock Your Brand® has become so synonymous with my brand that I have now officially trademarked it. This helps me to protect that distinctive brand asset for my brand and I now get to use that little ® symbol with it 😁

Rock Your Brand logo

How to make your brand stand out against competitors

When creating your distinctive brand asset, you need to make sure that it is unique to you.

Specific industries are known for using certain colours; for example, the Construction industry tends to use black and yellow, or the finance sector commonly uses blue.

Suppose your logo or colour is similar to competitors. In that case, you don’t want to put a lot of effort into promoting the colours they use because you could be helping people to remember your competitor more than you.

A recent example of distinctive assets and the importance of brand personality is the battle of caterpillar cakes — Colin vs Cuthbert.


Photo from metro.co.uk

Marks & Spencer has sold their well-established ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ since 1990. However, despite many other big chain supermarkets producing their version of the famous cake, M&S recently set out on a high court battle in a trademark infringement claim against Aldi’s cheaper imitation, Cuthbert.

Colin is a registered trademark, covering both branding and packaging as well as the product shape.

The controversy isn’t the first time Aldi has been under fire for product and brand packaging similarities. Aldi prides itself on being accessible on price, whereas M&S focuses on quality.

The scandal has resulted in Aldi making changes to the appearance of Cuthbert. Still, it was their handling of the situation on social media, combined with charity fundraising, that has seen them revel in consumer praise, whilst M&S has seen a backlash to their ill-humoured handling of the saga.

It’s crucial to align your brand to your marketing to maintain and reinforce brand distinctiveness.

Reinforcing your brand distinctiveness

Your branding starts with purpose and vision; successful brands build on this before any branding elements are even close to being considered.

Think about your brand’s:

  • Promise
  • Position
  • Personality
  • Story
  • Associations

Take Coca Cola’s red and white branding. You won’t find any other big-name soft drinks company using that colour scheme because these colours tied to people’s memories of Coca Cola.

If other brands were to start using red and white, all they would be doing is reinforcing Coca Cola in people’s minds.

It took Coca Cola years and years to build up such a prevalence of their brand colours that it would be damaging for a competitor to start using that same colour scheme.

Coca Cola Branding

The brands you can instantly recognise from a single element have all spent years promoting their distinctiveness. If you’ve ever played the logo game, you’re reciting all the information a brand has reinforced over time, from slogans to logos.

A logo needs the support of other brand elements to achieve distinctiveness. For example, Nike couldn’t have gotten away with using just a swoosh to market their brand when they first formed. Nobody would have a clue who it was or what it was.

By consistently showing the swoosh alongside the Nike name through consistent and comprehensive use, it got to the point that the swoosh became so distinctive they could start using it on its own without the Nike name alongside.

Like a lot of things to do with brand building, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of effort and consistency to gain that recognition.

Build your brand recognition

You must take your brand foundation seriously and spend time building these so that you can be consistent from the get-go.

If you skip the strategy work, you’ll find yourself changing tack and being distracted by the latest flash in the pan trends rather than using your strategic goals to forge your path ahead.

By not having strategic foundations to guide you, you will also lack the consistency required to be distinctive in the consumer’s mind.

Ready to elevate your brand assets into distinctive assets? You can book a Power Hour consultation call, and together we can look at your existing brand, discuss the key areas you’d like to change and improve and discuss how to use your assets to get ahead of competitors.

To do that, click the big red button below and let’s Rock Your Brand®!

Stay Creative!

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