With so many ways to express your brand in our omnichannel world, you would think that it would be easy to find ways to stand out – but it is actually harder. Every day there are more brands with more products competing for everyone’s attention, which is ever more stretched. On Instagram alone, 95 million photos and videos are shared every day. There’s only so much time and inclination in the day to engage with brands, and empowered consumers will only do so if the experience is distinctive and irresistible. 

Falling for the formulaic

Whether through lack of time or imagination, creative brand solutions can often follow established patterns or the received wisdom of how to do things; they become formulaic very easily. There are some benefits in following convention and making people feel safe – piggybacking on the value already built in your sector can help gain trust. But to break through the noise and become wildly successful, you have to do something radical in terms of points of difference.

When brand owners are planning how to approach visual and verbal expression, they may see what someone else is doing and tell their agency, “this is great, we want to be more like this”. But creatives implicitly find that very difficult and know that it’s storing up problems for further down the line. What seems like the ‘safe’ option from a certain business perspective actually carries its own risks in terms of creative strategy. You’re going to have to express yourself so often and in so many different media, that if you don’t have your unique special something, you can’t find your authentic direction because you’re mimicking someone else. You can end up feeling like an inauthentic mimic, which, as we all know, is a very dangerous, unlovable place for a brand to be. 

Bold creative matches big ambitions

In answer to those who are nervous about making bold moves in brand expression, I’d ask – is it really such a risky or threatening thing to be different? It’s more natural, honest, and interesting to be yourself, and the good thing about the multi-channel omniverse is that there’s room for all sorts of styles and modes of being. We always challenge the brand owner to embrace their uniqueness, come from a place of difference, and have the ambition to deliver creativity that truly matches their vision. Sometimes, clients need somebody to be brave on their behalf and say “no, you should do this – it’s not what anyone else has done, but it’s going to be great”.  

Good creatives must do this. They must work with you to distill your point of difference so that it’s very, very clear and quite simple. And then understand again, quite simply, how that translates aesthetically. Whether it’s an unconventional, ownable use of color a particularly striking style of imagery, or a tone of voice that is refreshing and unique in your field, sticking your head above the parapet and shouting ‘we zag’ is a winning formula.

An inspiring example of a brand that knows itself and expresses its difference so well is Issimo, the editorial platform of Il Pellicano hotel in Italy. Taking its name from the intensifying suffix it ‘embraces the passion and soul of Italy’s superlatives in life and living’. It conjures an irresistible world of beachside dolce vita, fashion, food, craftsmanship, and culture. The next best thing to visiting the hotels in real life, it’s a compelling context for the purchase of a silk shirt or colored glassware in between reading dreamy travel writing. 

Unfailing consistency of expression

My one word of warning would be, if you’re going to be different you have to do it properly, and most of all, consistently. Any mismatch between a perceived point of difference and its expression means your USP won’t always translate. Every step of the way, you’ve got to check that what makes you ‘you’ is clear to customers. Creatives can help clients here too, by being unbelievably consistent, by always interrogating whether what they are doing is a true expression of themselves and truly occupying their strategic territory. It’s a question of knowing and constantly coming back to your point of difference and enacting it across all the different touchpoints until it eventually becomes second nature.

Rather than being a stated USP that sits in the brand book, your difference becomes the way you engage with the world and create a community. It is amplified through the interaction between your brand world and the fans who love and respond to it. Filling social feeds with unique visuals and distinctive turns of phrase attracts and seduce customers who see and feel a reason to share. A brand’s idiosyncrasy is the foundation of its strength and the source of enjoyment for its fans. That’s why we never advise clients to follow conventions. It’s difficult to be different but going the ‘safe’ and easy route leads nowhere very exciting. Only by daring to be different can you win fame, glory, and brand love.

Cover image source: Will Myers