16 March 2022
Creative ways to introduce and reinforce differentiation during a rebrand
If you’ve decided to rebrand your business, one of the first tasks you need to do is assess what your competitors are doing.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but if you’re to stand out you need to do things that set your business apart from those competitors.
Not just in the way you look, but in the way you position yourself. Get it right, and differentiation can grab attention, create brand loyalty, and shift the focus off the price – enabling you to charge more for your services, because people want them regardless of the cost (… just ask Apple).
Our short guide will help you think about differentiation, and introduce suggestions of how you can do it.
Identify your USP
Your unique selling points (USPs) aren’t something you need to create from scratch – you already have them. You simply need to identify what they are, and how you can communicate them in a new way to help you stand apart.
- Features – What does your brand do better, faster, smarter than others?
- Service – How does your business make things easier, cheaper or more convenient for its customers?
- Design – Is your product more beautiful, functional, or easier to use than its competitors?
- Proprietary technology – Does it have any truly unique features that nobody can copy? A patent can ensure your service is near-impossible to replicate.
There are many businesses out there that struggle to pin down their points of differentiation, because where you differ is in your values, subject matter knowledge or heritage. Those can be tricky stories to tell in an instant, and it’s why good branding is so important – a picture says a thousand words, as the saying goes.
As branding experts, we can tell you that it’s about much more than whacking a logo on everything. Sure, that introduces consistency; but if that’s all you do, it speaks to a lack of creativity and original thinking – essentially, that you don’t do things any differently to anyone else.
It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference – and here’s where (and how) your brand can stand out:
You can spend big money on business cards, and there are all sorts of ways to stand out from other businesses.
How’s this for a picture-framing business? These plastic frames have space to include contact details and a clear centre, turning every background into a work of art.
Idea by Piko
Plastic business cards could make a lot of sense if your business needs them to be waterproof, but try to find ones made with recycled plastic if possible. We’ve seen people in the music industry use old vinyl records as the basis of their business cards before.
Die-cutting can change the shape of your card to introduce cut-outs. We’ve seen companies in the water industry use teardrop-shaped cards, and then there’s this clever example from the world of investments…
As part of our own rebrand, we’ve had a little fun with our own business cards. They follow the convention when it comes to size, shape and material – but we’ve listed each individual’s favourite song on there. It’s a great conversation-starter.
Each simple, black-and-white card handed out by this sommelier has been briefly used as a coaster – leaving a telltale wine ring. It’s an incredibly simple (and affordable) way of reinforcing their service.
Concept and design by Caserne
Could your business card have a second use? We’ve seen some gimmicky and impractical examples (edible business cards are a waste of your money), so think carefully before going down this route as it could be expensive.
One great example we saw was this example from 1010Tires.com, which includes a tread depth measuring tool.
Concept and design by Spring
Could the person receiving your business card transform it in some way? Whether it’s begging to be folded, torn, coloured-in or even burned, it could leave a lasting impression.
These business cards for a hairdressing academy invite the user to craft a style – while ensuring all the pertinent details are on part of the card that won’t be affected.
Design by Y&R Thailand
When design agency Ahoy created a new brand identity for tech solutions firm Fabric IT, they wanted to bring their IT knowledge to the fore.
Their ideas included adding the ‘cut’ keyboard shortcut CTRL+Z next to the eraser on their pencils, ‘This way up’ on their USB drives (a godsend), and a notepad illustrated with Microsoft Word’s Clippy character.
Remember that it may be your team who spend most of their time interacting with these, so they can be a great way of getting your people invested in your brand – leading to increased staff retention, and turning them into advocates for your business.
‘What’s that?’, we hear you ask.
It’s tricky to explain, but it’s essentially advertising where you least expect it. For examples, gyms need lockers; how could they use the inside of the doors? Buses have grab-handles for standing passengers; what message could you put on them?
Chicken restaurant Yard & Coop, which has a number of outlets across northern England, have to deliver bills to tables when customers have finished eating. Rather than using a tip tray, they use an old egg carton to reinforce their love of all things chicken.
Photo from Tripadvisor
Promotional giveaways and ‘swag’
You’ll often see branded items described as ‘merchandise’, but that implies some kind of purchase – whereas you’re much more likely to give this kind of stuff away (perhaps alongside stationery as part of an onboarding kit for new starters).
We’re talking about useful things that aren’t directly linked to what you do, but what you’ve had branded in order to increase visibility of your brand. In the past, we ourselves have had branded bottle openers created (even though our services have nothing to do with beverages).
Other ideas include trolley tokens, tote bags, paperweights, lanyards, powerbanks and even clothing. For a business like ours in the audio industry, headphones make sense; AwesomeMerchandise.com has loads of ideas to get you started.
Voicemail greetings and telephone system messages
Your people are an extension of your brand when speaking on the phone. So what happens when someone doesn’t get through to them?
You can introduce creativity (or simply elevate your professional image) with expertly created voicemail and out-of-hours greetings, or communicate useful information while people are waiting to connect.
These are just some examples – there are loads more. What about exclusive music, or a sonic logo? Our branding experts can help you integrate audio into your brand and ensure you’re appealing to more than your audiences’ sense of sight.
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