It’s now harder than ever for brands to be completely unique, and it’s not because of our lack of innovation. With over 28 million brands in the United States alone, it’s nearly impossible that yours will look completely different from everyone else’s out there. When you add globalization into the picture, the problem grows even bigger. The average consumer has access to over one billion website “brands”, with a click of a button. As brand designers, this means we have to rethink our approach towards branding. If you are an entrepreneur, this means you have to rethink what “special” and “unique” really mean.
Narrow Down Your Focus
Regardless of how big your company is or how much you pay for a design, no designer could ever promise you a “one-of-a-kind” logo. If you don’t believe this, you can simply look at Ford’s logo next to Carrier’s. Both companies are worth billions of dollars, yet both have logos with the exact same blue oval frame. If you’re not convinced, check out Sun-Microsystems & Columbia-Sportswear, Gucci & Chanel, or Bentley & Mini-Cooper. The list is endless, but the bottom line is simple: somewhere in the world, there’s another brand that looks like yours.
This doesn’t mean you can’t differentiate yourself, but rather it means we have to narrow down your focus. Your brand, and logo, in particular, is not designed to differentiate you from the world; it is designed to differentiate you from the competition. So before designing your brand, you should make sure to do your due-diligence on who your competition is and what they look like.
Are you trying to differentiate yourself from companies in the same space? Some companies would actually prefer to look like similar companies as long as they don’t target the same audience- just like Bentley & Mini-Cooper.
As a rule of thumb, you should try to imagine a street where your customers are walking while shopping for a product. What other companies will they see there? These are the competitors you’d like to differentiate yourself from.
Internet services, for example, would want to differentiate themselves in search results for the same terms. Small local businesses might want to make sure no one on their main street looks the same, regardless of the industry. Once you understand who you’re trying to set yourself apart from, you can start to make your logo memorable. Memorable is often the exact opposite from unique.
Make It Memorable
American Apparel is probably one of the most well-recognized fashion brands in the states. Even though it went bankrupt, it still has 273 locations and $633 million in annual revenue. After seeing their brand once, you could probably identify their logo from across a busy street. But despite that, their logo is far from unique.
In fact, their logo can be created in any Word document. American Apparel uses a simple Helvetica typeface logo. Helvetica is far from unique, and it’s probably the most used font in the world. It’s used in hundreds of logos, like Crate & Barrel, Jeep, Nestle, Target, Panasonic, and others. But it’s exactly that lack of uniqueness that makes the American Apparel logo so memorable.
The reason some shapes or typeface sare more successful than others is that our brains find them easier to “digest”. While typefaces such as Yellowfish or Proxima are beautiful, Helvetica is just easier for the brain to comprehend. Once a shape is easy to “understand,” you have more time to digest the content. The minute you see American Apparel’s logo, you focus on their name. You have more time to remember it. Their logo might not be “special” per say, but it’s memorable.
Remember What’s Important
The important thing to remember is why we create branding in the first place. Branding is a powerful marketing tool; it can get more people walking through the door, or actually make the coffee you’re selling taste better (placebo effect). A brand should, first of all, fit a product like a glove, but it should also amplify an experience. Your brand will be special when all of the parts, specifically branding and product, work together.
When you go ahead creating your first brand – don’t spend so much time worrying about making it different. That’s the wrong approach. Differentiation should only be used if it compliments the goal. When you take a shot at creating branding, your first reaction should be; “make sure it looks beautiful”. Your second reaction should be; “Make sure it fits the purpose”.
Only by following these two guidelines will your brand look truly special. If you’re still having a hard hard time picturing it; imagine a coffee shop using ECOFONT, and an icon of a rainbow-colored Rolex. Would it be different? I hope so. Would this differentiation serve a purpose? Probably not.