As an Art Director, my day-to-day role and overall career swings heavily around the intent of differentiation. Being offered the opportunity to discuss this theme with a handful of UK startups found my balance between the desire to motivate people, and to progress the creative industry. Partnering with the Accelerator Academy Network, this session played part of their comprehensive course in guiding founder’s through the many aspects of beginning a successful business. With only a brief presentation on establishing differentiation in your brand before the one on one workshops, this is the flyby tour which I hoped would spark conversation and inspire ideas.
They knew what I likely to ask; “what do you think makes you different?”. And likewise, I had an inkling as to their own internal question back at me; “…what does this person know about being different?”. While the event is all about them and how to hone their venture, a flavour of my working history is all that’s needed as a line in the sand. 5 projects, each of which has differentiation woven into the design in a myriad of ways.
The Racing Manager. This is a long standing client who wanted to genuinely revolutionise the sport of horse racing. We found every competitor used a motif of a horse — because every person involved in the sport lives and breathes them. It’s not just a game to them, it’s their life. So, how do we present the client’s intended revolution? Through a symbol where you can’t help but see an eternally galloping horse. By reviewing the history of horses in art and depicting them in a way nobody had seen before. One which captures the raw energy of a race. A living, breathing brand, with exciting motion put into every deliverable.
Future Generation meanwhile saw an opportunity to break the mould of uninspiring student accommodation. Their innovative take on raising the industry’s standards prompted themes of space and applying new perspectives to every brief tackled. Moving between interior design, wayfinding, clothing, collateral and web experiences, these new perspectives took us from literal “perspective” executions to those less obvious. Unlike any other student brand, we catered to a broader array of residents with braille information on doors, symbol orientated signage for those less confident with english, and commissioned local students for local insights. All together, this welcomed new students to feel they were already home and placed the brand as experiential and human leaders of the market.
Topic Type, a relatively young campaign from us, visualises world events through bespoke lettering to raise unique awareness. The Australian wildfires prompted us to burn paper cutouts for a truly macro glimpse into the unpredictable destruction fire brings, and the BLM protests lead us to find the graphical heart of the movement in the sheer diversity of handmade placards. Creating fonts around these key traits simultaneously shared insight to the issues and gave a voice to them for others to use. Each font was freely available to those who shared proof of any relevant donation.
Pants&Socks.com — who could quite simply sell pants and socks — found its own opportunities to be boldly humorous with the brash name, and also equally serious with the opportunity to champion an important modern subject. Body positivity in men. Proudly shying away from the unrealistic, typical glossy models people are so used to seeing, the brand sought to offer their products in conjunction something more real and familiar. With a truly simple service taking many forms across digital, print and social, the duality of demandingly personal humour with candid honesty sought to give customers a meaningful experience beyond Pants&Socks (.com)
Finally, our own revitalised branding. Built from harmonised sounds for each studio within the Multivitamin group, individual idents can stand confidently alone, can be combined with different team idents to show project collaboration and shared skills, or be played as a full group to produce a rich and unified chorus. Starting with a simple and consistent riser, every combination offers listeners a new experience with subverted expectations and new sounds to explore, capturing the imagination we feel with each and every challenge we take on.
With these in mind, it’s of utmost important to note your differentiation in not only the market, but to your audiences too. It’s not just that your offerings are different to competitor brands — its about continuing that approach in ways people haven’t seen before. And, before becoming carried away with the excitement it can bring, that doesn’t mean being different for the sake of it (sorry) because a well crafted story goes a long way to earning a person’s trust. Think of it as if sharing a belief, and with that in mind we’ll backtrack and rephrase the very first question everyone considered. It’s not “what makes you different”, rather “why did you believe in the brand’s success?”.
Why are you different in your market? Why are you different for your customers? Because that window in the middle of your venn diagram is the sweet spot. That beautiful collision is why you’re recognisably different. Take keywords from either side of either question, and those which match are the terms which you can use to express your uniqueness. Just like how among many other descriptions, The Racing Manager is revolutionary. Future Generation is about perspectives. Topic Type is about resonance. Pants&Socks.com is personal. Multivitamin’s branding is about harmony. These words, as simple as they may be, can inform all aspects of how your idea is expressed and ultimately help define who you are.
While there are many other exercises I walk myself, others and briefs through to best pluck the right chord of what makes a project unique, this is where our session’s Q&As began for each founder — but not where the fascination with differentiation ends. If you’re interested in taking your brand to the next level, by all means reach out to the Multivitamin team.
This article was written by Robert Lloyd, Art Director at Vitamin London; a digital innovation studio who continues to try and Push the Possible, translating ideas into exciting experiences which are more accessible to everyone, and keeping both partners and their audiences in the spotlight.