Why breaking rules can benefit your brand

Consistency, transparency and authenticity are regularly reported as the most important aspects of any brand. For customers, investors and marketers, brands that stand out from the crowd are the most effective. Yet many businesses still follow the rule book when it comes to their tone of voice and visual identity.

Just like individual personalities, there are no rules or restrictions on what brands can and cannot be. Indeed, 77% of customers report buying most often from brands that share their values. Yet many businesses fear that creating a rule-breaking brand will narrow down sources of revenue, attract controversy or completely alienate their audience.

We believe that bending or breaking rules can bring significant advantages to brands. This article will explain why.

Why do brands choose to be sheep?

If you were deciding which makeup products to choose, which brand imagery would speak most effectively to you?

If you didn’t know these images were each from L’Oreal, Clarins and Estee Lauder, it would be impossible to tell them apart. Indeed, if you selected the campaign imagery from any of the world’s beauty giants, you’d quickly discover they follow very similar branding rules and could have been taken from the same mood board.

Partly a result of wholesale brand takeovers by conglomerate businesses like Unilever, the beauty industry is a clear example of brands trying to attract the same target audience by adopting the same marketing strategy and aesthetic. However, rather than giving their potential customers a sense of their product benefits and brand personality, these images fade into a studio-white background.

How brands break the mould

In contrast to the above, other businesses have taken the essence of what makes them different and turned it into an effective brand that stands out and gives customers a real sense of who they are. To do this. each has taken a unique mould-breaking approach.

Turning taboos on their head

Numan’s no-nonsense brand is facing difficult men’s health topics head-on. Erectile dysfunction, hair loss, unequal beard growth – nothing is off the cards for the ‘helpful healthcare company’. A bold, fresh and simple graphical style shows exactly how Numan will solve a customer’s needs and the benefits their products will bring.

Plus, the brand’s funny, straightforward tone of voice talks to Numan’s customers like a friend giving direct, useful health advice. By confronting the most challenging health topics and giving clear, authoritative help, Numan helps its target audience to become ‘new men’ and sets itself apart as a trusted healthcare brand.

Being unashamedly honest

Many banks and providers say they’ll make the mortgage process easier for customers, but only Habito is completely honest about how tricky and challenging it can be. Rather than glossing over the challenges of finding and fixing a mortgage, the expert finance brand puts a spotlight on customers’ hellish experiences with unexpected marketing campaigns that reflect customers’ worries about mortgage applications in fantastical ways.

Across the board, Habito shows itself to be a truly transparent and understanding brand. Their visual identity is colourful, simple and attractive, the complete opposite of other corporate providers, while their tone of voice is unashamedly friendly and honest, using messages like, ‘life’s too short for life admin’ and ‘we’re here to fix that’ to build an authentic connection with their target audience.

Creating a new movement

‘Welcome to the post-milk generation’ Oatly proclaims on its packaging and marketing. Distinctly different in everything it does, the oat drink maker’s brand is playfully political. By balancing a confident, intelligent and factual tone with a cute, bold visual identity, the brand takes a strong stance on issues close to its heart, such as the EU’s ‘dairy ban’, in a relatable, easy-to-understand way.

As well as creating a distinct brand identity that effectively communicates its product benefits, Oatly aligns itself directly with the social identities and political movements shared by its target audiences, such as veganism and climate change. By establishing itself as an authoritative voice on these issues, Oatly may occasionally spark controversy, but also makes its audience feel informed, loyal and more likely to return to the brand.

Making a feature of their features

If you’ve ever scrolled through TikTok, you’ll know you can never predict where you’ll end up next. This fast, on-to-go and anarchistic approach is reflected in the brand. TikTok’s empowerment of user-generated content, creativity and their audience’s right to choose and consume is clear across their entire branding.

From the multi-faceted movement of its brand logo, to its personable and empowering campaigns, the social media platform’s brand identity is fast-paced, engaging and completely unpredictable. When combined with a unifying and liberating tone of voice, TikTok’s brand reflects the on-the-go, creative nature of its name and purpose.

Why brand should embrace being different

In each of the case studies above, businesses have embraced what makes them different and used it as a basis for an effective brand. This has brought specific advantages to each of them, including:

• Helping them stand out from competitors.

• Aligning them directly with a target customer base.

• Honestly and authentically reflecting their brand’s purpose and values, inspiring greater customer loyalty.

• Establish themselves as an authoritative voice in relevant topic areas.

• Effectively communicating product benefits and brand personality.

In short, by uncovering what makes their business different and bringing it to the forefront through an effective visual identity and tone of voice, brands are able to connect directly with their target audience. In some cases, the strength of the brand may lead to controversy. However, in the eyes of potential or loyal customers, this only adds greater value and credibility to the brand’s authenticity, a quality that’s deemed essential to many.

In short, rather than fading into the background, the brands that make an asset of their difference and break the rules of the expected, gain a real competitive advantage. To find out how the Designmc team can help your business embrace its difference and create an effective, rule-breaking brand, drop us an email at hello@designmc.org