Rebellion in its purest form is the willingness to go right when everyone else goes left. Meaning, it is an intentional effort to be different from everyone else. Developing a recognizable, bold brand is contingent upon this. What's not always clear though are the tactics used to intentionally differentiate your brand from your competitors.
Ugggghhhhh, research? C'mon man, I thought branding was supposed to be fun? Branding is fun and the best way to ensure it's fun is to do it right. You must know what is already out there within your market to see how you measure up. If you all look and sound exactly the same, this makes it insanely difficult for consumers to make a buying decision. The research doesn't have to be extensive either, especially if you can't afford the time. But you could at the very least do this:
Research your top 7 competitors via their website and social accounts. Ask yourself these three questions:
What do I feel when going through their marketing? List out all the adjectives you can (encouraged, empowered, bold, safe, clean, edgy, rustic, modern, etc.) or if you don't feel anything, write that down too.
Who do I think would buy this product/service? Be specific, write down the person's sex, age, economic status, occupation, etc. if a competitor seems like they are trying to appeal to everyone, write that down.
What is missing? These could be emotional qualities, different tiers in quality or price, or a missing offering that would be useful to the consumer.
With all of this information, you can now assess where the weak points are in the market. For example, if all of your competitors gravitate toward a male audience, perhaps there is a chance to be female-centric. If they all charge a low price, there is an opportunity for a high price, high-quality offering. At the very least, if all of them act the same, there is an opportunity to be different at an emotional level.
Creche le créneau
French for "fill the void." Somewhere in your research is a gaping hole that no one has filled yet. Be it emotionally, quality of goods, accessibility, or catering to a specific user, if something is missing, there is an opportunity. If you can find a hole that fits the purpose and vision of your business, you've got the foundations of a rebellious brand.
Logos are tricky and inherently subjective. Not only that, but with a slew of vendors like Fiverr, Upwork, 99Designs, and friends/family who do design work as a side hustle, it's hard to figure out navigating a new identity for your startup. So, here are the top five things all startups should consider when deciding whether or not it is time for a new logo.
Is your logo descriptive of what your startup does?
Descriptive logos detail what services/products a startup provides. For example, if you owned a computer hardware startup and your logo was a monitor screen, that is a descriptive logo. The issue with descriptive logos is that they focus on what you do rather than why you do it.
Logos should be somewhat representative of the fundamental purpose behind your startup and the emotional resonance of your brand (more on this later). Furthermore, descriptive logos are a terrible solution in the long-term, especially if they are focused on a particular technology. Reason being, we don't know how long any particular products or services will be around.
Does your logo look like all of your competitors?
Everyone loves to chalk up Apple as one of the greatest brands of all time. While the logo is the tip of their branding iceberg, it successfully demonstrates the need to stand out. Here is an example of what I mean:
You see, it would have been easy for Apple to create a blue logotype just like their successful competitors, but they would not have been identifiable at all. They would have been pegged as a copycat. The goal of a logo is to be an easily identified mark that helps people recognize your startup. If your logo looks just like all of your competitors, then your logo isn't doing its job.
Did you receive all of the proper formats of your logo when you first got it?
We're diving into the weeds here, but this is an important part of logo design. The downside to sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99Designs is that they do not guide users through the proper ways your logo should be distributed. For example, the logo on your website should be in an SVG (scalable vector graphic) format, not a PNG or JPEG. It's not your job as a startup to know this, but you should be informed by the designer which one to use. They also do not develop variants for specific applications like social media, favicons, or different lockups for different applications. In short, if you find yourself scrambling to make your logo work in different contexts, it is obvious that the logo was not built with those applications in mind.
Is it legible and memorable?
Effective logos are simple. The reason for this is so that they can be easily recognized in a crowded market and distinguished from other marks. Simplicity, in the context of logos, could be distilled into two key components:
Legibility (how easy it is to read)
Memorability (how well you, your team, and your customers remember it).
Your logo is not a place to get fancy with grandiose illustrations or granular details. It needs to be just as clear at .5 inches tall as it would be on a billboard.
A simple test to check for these qualifiers is to try and draw your logo from memory. Ask your team and some of your loyal customers to do the same. Are they completely off? If they are, it's time to change.
Has the brand of your startup changed?
Your logo is not your brand, the brand is the gut feeling someone has toward your startup. This feeling is hard to pinpoint without walking through a formalized brand strategy process, but it is found and felt over time.
While logos are not meant for communicating everything about the company, a good logo will be appropriate for the brand. For example, Metallica's logo would not suite a company like Gerber Baby Food because the emotional qualities are at ends with each other. Gerber wants people to feel happy and cared for, while Metallica wants you to feel the wrath of heavy metal.
The first step is understanding what the feeling you want someone to have toward your startup is. Once you can define that, you can see how your logo matches up. If they are in contention with each other, it's time to change.
How does your startup's logo stack up against these questions?
A common occurrence I hear from clients when discussing the attributes of their brand follows something along these lines: "We want it to look professional, but still playful."
Reading between the lines, what they are saying is this "we don't want to turn anyone off, so we are cool without adorning a personality that would offend anyone."
You cannot build a brand off that. Professional and playful are polar opposites on the spectrum. Your brand becomes a tied to two horses pulling in opposite directions and you go nowhere.
This comes in common forms, like companies that tout innovation and creativity, yet stick to a corporate blue because it won't offend anybody. Or the companies who claim to be different but choose to speak and act like their already successful competitors.
What would have been an otherwise inventive and distinct brand is torn in half by a lack of commitment.
Rather than trying to be everything, be something.