One of my favorite stories about Apple (one that is actually applicable to building out a brand) is how Steve Jobs came up with the idea for Apple store layouts.
Think about a traditional computer store, or any store for that matter, what do you see? Boxes, boxes, and boxes. Boxes on shelves, boxes on the floor, boxes everywhere. In short, the place is packed with product and no matter how neatly arranged and organized, it treats products like cattle for slaughter.
True to his rebellious nature, this concept didn't sit well with Jobs so he sought out inspiration. But he didn't look at other stores, he looked at museums. Museums that house priceless works of art and marvels of nature like dinosaur fossils. These items are treated with so much respect and given ample space to let viewers bask in their presence. You feel awestruck staring at them.
Now think about an Apple store. There is one variant of every product they have placed on single metal stand for a shopper to interact with. There is minimal product storage happening in the consumer facing end of the store. Apple treats their products like the works of art seen in museums and it makes them special.
When applying this to brand identity, it opens up the door for magic. Where can you find a name that starts a story? Where can you find a symbol to represent your company? In whom can you find a personality to best characterize your brand? Where can you find patterns and imagery to reflect who you are? Lastly, how can you mix it all together to become something novel?
This applies to everything. From experience design, brand naming, visual identity, collateral, packaging, whatever. Seeking and stealing creates magic.
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.
When entering a space like internet security, you'd think that the best bet would be to rely on a stoic and staid brand. That is, of course, unless everyone else in your market is boring, difficult to work with, and doesn't provide any emotional value to the customer.
Dashlane is a password manager (I use them personally so I don't spend hours trying to get all of my passwords in a row). I've gotta say, having used their top competitor, LastPass, it's evident what makes Dashlane's positioning so potent: they made password protection snazzy and cool.
LastPass, the only major competitor to Dashlane, goes for $3 per month for the same features as Dashlane's $4 per month premium personal plan. Something they seem to be totally ok with given that they are pushing for a higher-end experience.
Smart move, here's why:
They win on a more refined experience instead of driving down prices within their market. Think about it, both of these softwares do the same thing, yet Dashlane earns an extra dollar over LastPass users. Sure, they might have less customers, but they earn 33% more money per user. In turn, LastPass' 16M users at $3 per month earn $48M compared to Dashlane's 10M users that earn them $40M in monthly revenue.
If Dashlane had gone the route of charging a dollar less their revenue would be cut in half. But by positioning the brand to be a premium alternative and an experience worth paying extra money for, they can compete. Clearly, there is some serious validity to playing up in a "downgraded" market.
With the numbers established, let's take a look at some brass tacks: who is this brand for and why they care.
This is all speculation, but given that I'd seen ads for Dashlane on several design-related YouTube channels, I'm guessing Dashlane's ideal user is someone in the tech scene with money to spare and willing to pay for an elevated experience. Why this matters to this user is the fact that they don't have time to fiddle in run-of-the-mill tech like LastPass and instead yearn for something fresh and easy to use. They are neophiles with a taste for well-designed software. Paying the extra dollar is worth the boost in esteem and status. Dashlane built their brand around this.
Compared to the consumer LastPass attracts (the person looking for a conservative, affordable option), this tech-savvy user base allowed Dashlane level up the market.