Brand Identity: Differentiating Your Brand Using Multiple Visual Cues (Form, Color, Pattern and Feature)

Recently British retailer Selfridges — which apparently sells EVERYTHING — started a new marketing campaign entitled “No Noise.” As part of this campaign, they sold un-branded versions of famous products. Each product was stripped of the brand’s name, but not its identity. This got me to wondering, could other brands — and more importantly your brand — withstand similar treatment?

Taking a cue from the Selfridges campaign, I reduced other popular brands down to their purest essence… removing the brand name and logo. In doing this, I highlight four techniques — used by these brands and potentially yours — to make them stand out.

*Click on each image to reveal the brand as well as other pertinent information.

1. Emblematic Form

Is your product or packaging so unique that customers can recognize it immediately? Does it jump off the shelf? If not, perhaps whipping your brand packaging or product into shape is a distinct possibility.

This iconic silhouette is so recognizable, no other visual representation is necessary.

Designed in 1915, after some cosmetic tweaks, the Coca-Cola bottle went into production the following year. The renowned form is still being used in modern-day marketing efforts.

Source: (Retouched)

The shape of this product immediately puts a smile on your face… at least it does mine. Sadly, it’s also the shape of my waistline after eating too many of these.

Even without the silver foil wrapper, Hershey’s Kisses® are a sweet reminder of what a unique shape can do for your brand.

©2013 Tim Blake

This brand has run an advertising campaign (created by TBWA) since 1980 using little more than representations of the shape of its bottle and a headline incorporating its name.

Running one of the longest running ad campaigns of all time, Absolut® Vodka has used the simple shape of its bottle to distinguish itself from the competition. Not many brands can obliterate their logo and packaging and still create a wildly successful marketing campaign.

Source: (Retouched)

2. Signature Color

Color is an easy way to differentiate your brand. Just because every other product in the category uses a blue logo with a red stripe doesn’t mean that your products have to. In fact, it’s all the more reason not to.

Even from acres away, there’s little mistaking this one-of-a-kind color scheme.

Nothing runs like a John Deere… at least nothing else looks like one.

Source: (Retouched)

A unique color can help distinguish your brand from all the other players in the field. There’s a rainbow of possibilities to help your brand avoid the blues.

This teal gift packaging represents luxury and romance to women everywhere.

Even without the logo insignia, the Tiffany & Co. teal packaging conveys a sense of prestige, for this brand, and to those who receive it.

Source: Bernard Design (Retouched)

3. Exclusive Pattern

Patterns have long been used to distinguish friend from foe. A unique pattern can easily set your brand apart from the competition without alienating your existing customer base.

Andy Warhol immortalized this brand’s label with a series of pop art paintings. Unfortunately, I recently discovered that this classic design has been phased out.

When Campbell’s Soup labels are displayed on supermarket shelves, the simple pattern pops. Warhol recognized the pattern — a bisecting color band and circular seal — as the strength of the label’s design. Even when reproduced, in a vibrant rainbow of colors, the pattern is still evident and reinforces the consistency of the brand.

Source: (Retouched)
Warhol inspired cans:

Introduced in February 1955, this product is still highly sought after by women worldwide.

The Chanel “2.55” handbag’s unique quilted pattern helped set it apart and establish it as a staple for generations of fashionistas.

Source: Wen Cheng Liu (Retouched)

Is your product lineup inconsistent? Perhaps repetition will convey consistency and help your products stand out.

4. Distinguishing Feature

With so many copycat products, your brand can quickly get lost in the crowd. Adding a distinguishing feature to your product lineup evokes consistency across your product line and sense of pride among consumers.

Entire subcultures have risen up around this brand. Fans will go to almost any length to prove their devotion.

A single, emblematic component is enough for this consumer to be identified with Harley-Davidson.

Source: 2Face-Tattoo (Retouched)

Are consumers willing to permanently brand their bodies just to be associated with your brand? Do elements of your products elicit such sacrifice? Probably not.

Automobile manufacturers are constantly tweaking the styles of their automobiles. However one thing has remained constant, for this brand, since 1933.

Even if you’re not into cars, it's difficult to not recognize the two-section, rounded radiator grille (a.k.a. the kidney grille). Like nostrils of a mythical beast, they make every BMW unmistakeable.

Source: Hidden (Retouched)

Final Thoughts

People wrongly assume that their brand identity is little more than a logo. In truth, your brand identity consists of several components: your name, logo, slogan, packaging and other collateral. Breaking that down even further, successful brands are usually identified by other factors including: color, typography, imagery, pattern, texture, along with sounds, smells and experiences.

Hopefully I’ve proven to you that your brand can and should be characterized through many factors, including: shapes, colors, patterns and features. So if your brand identity is a one-trick pony, get in touch, and together we’ll teach your brand some new tricks.

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