Branding: beyond the expected

Aug 20, 2018

Most sectors, industries, partnerships and activities are synonymous with certain elements of branding – elements we expect to see and are comfortable with viewing. But can the ‘expected’ really be memorable? We’ll be taking a look at how a number of brands have shunned the expected norm and broken the mould to achieve great success.

We begin with Beyond, a funeral service comparison site that’s beginning to transform an industry. Rejecting the stereotypical floral imagery, dark colours and copious apologies this industry is renowned for, Beyond has instead taken its brand in a new direction. The most overt example is their core colour of yellow; a colour representing happiness and hope, rather than the blues and greys associated with sadness and grief. Similarly, the strapline ‘Your knowledgeable companion for everything after life’ is a humorous play on words, rather than a soothing sympathy message. These choices are about far more than just standing out from competition – they set the tone for the entire brand, positioning it not as a shoulder to cry on, but as a warm, welcoming business whose helping hand will guide you through the process. Unusually for the sector, Beyond has opted for a mascot as a point of reference for their visitors. They believe this animated character, an average looking man, brings comfort and represents a useful tool when addressing difficult subjects. This simplicity stretches to their intelligent copy that doesn’t patronize and continuously pity its customers; it provides accessible, transparent information alongside the message that whatever it is, they’ll take care of it. This branding showcases them as a business that knows exactly who they are, and exactly what you expect of them.

Another brand that’s ventured into unexplored territory is IKEA. They’ve recently partnered with global sportswear giant, Adidas, in an unexpected alliance between two industries which are seemingly worlds apart. These brands have come together ‘to explore the connections between living spaces and sport, and how they can help create healthy habits.’ They understand there may be huge differences and friction between their traits and ideas, but they also see the enormous potential in their collaboration to devise something brand new. It was a similar story when running brand, Saucony, and Dunkin’ Donuts came from each end of the spectrum to craft a limited edition running shoe for the Boston Marathon. The project was a mutual success, and showcased that brands which may not be a natural fit can combine to develop of product that’s truly unique.

The ways in which a brand can go beyond the expected aren’t limited to their imagery, words and partners – sound can also play an enormous part in placing a brand outside of the norm. A number of trends have emerged when it comes to a brand’s musical choices within a certain industry. Furniture companies tend to opt for warm piano and acoustic guitar to reflect the comfort and wholesomeness found at the heart of the home. Whereas chocolatiers, like Lindt and Galaxy, opt for a slow, more subtle track to indicate luxury and class – but not all confectionary companies follow suit. In 2007, Cadbury’s broke the mould – and the internet – with their unforgettable Gorilla Advert. The imagery: a gorilla playing the drums. The soundtrack: Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight. The result: one of the most famous advertisements to have ever been created, racking up over nine million views on YouTube. Aside from living long in the memory, Cadbury’s created an advert that placed them a world away from the competition, and developed an association between a brand and a song that means few will listen to it without reaching for a bar of chocolate.

The expected trends and norms within all branding are there for a reason; they represent the qualities of the business and what consumers can expect from them. But that doesn’t mean they should be followed religiously, or at all. These examples illustrate that diverting from the expected can reap huge rewards, especially if it truly represents who your company wants to be.