Brands Should Aspire To Be Never Normal To Compete

Being brave can help your brand stand out in 'boring' industries.

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Being brave can help your brand stand out in 'boring' industries.


Brands Should Aspire To Be Never Normal To Compete

Being brave can help your brand stand out in 'boring' industries.

Share this article

As the UK is encouraged to embrace ‘the new normal’, it begs the question: what was so great about normal anyway? Normal is average, it’s not exceptional.

For brands which want to achieve the extraordinary, they should begin a search for their never normal: that essence which will make them stand out in a crowded marketplace so they don’t resort to competing only on price.

It’s no secret that we’re living in challenging and unprecedented times and you’ve probably heard those clichés a lot in recent weeks. But whatever situation a business is in, leaders should ensure it’s in the best shape it can be and well-positioned for recovery.

Look at some of the brands which are embracing a never normal approach, helping them stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Prime examples include energy provider Bulb, toilet roll company Who Gives a Crap, snack brand Peperami and car manufacturer Audi. How do these disparate brands achieve standout in crowded and sometimes dull marketplaces?

The answer is that are they all noteworthy for their bravery.

Go against the grain

Take Bulb. These days the brand has more competition to contend with, as players enter the market with the same core proposition of 100% renewable energy provision, but it still turns heads.

Its striking visual and graphic identity, unforced humour in its communications and approachable tone of voice across all its advertising and customer communications, ensure it is a force to be reckoned with.

Toilet roll company Who Gives a Crap is another interesting case study. Nothing about this brand is normal, from its name to its ethos.

From using bamboo instead of paper, to donating half its profits to building toilets in the developing world, it has seamlessly blended sustainability, ethical behaviour and very down-to-earth humour to create a uniquely differentiated offering and presence in the marketplace.

It’s impossible to think of another brand of toilet paper that comes close to eliciting any sort of feeling from consumers at all.

An all-time favourite is Peperami. Any creative team which can take the essence of a product and make it uniquely theirs is on to a winner. Peperami – a stick of meat running around doing crazy stuff because: “It’s a bit of an animal”. That’s what the product is. No more, no less.

Consider when Audi released a genius advert to compete with BMW, Mercedes and Porsche by distancing the brand from part of its own market.

The thinking behind the messaging of the campaign was that some consumers want the performance of a ‘luxury’ car but don’t want to look like a show-off. It’s a brilliant never normal approach.

What all these never normal brands have in common is their courage. The courage of the ad agency to pitch these ideas to the client in the first place and the bravery of the brand to try something truly unique which goes against the grain, ensuring they are memorable and chosen.

A forensic approach

But how do brands successfully find their never normal essence? It’s important to take a forensic and honest look at the business first and ask: why does it really exist and why should consumers care about it?

A lot of research is required to reach this point, because a brand is more than a clever advertising campaign or idea. It is the sum of all the parts of the customer experience and all its touchpoints.

So, it’s crucial to understand how a business is perceived in every interaction with its customers and look at the brand’s behaviour. Should this behaviour change for the brand to move into a more meaningful, differentiated and ownable position?

A good forensic examination should also look at what is missing, not at what is already there. To achieve this, be brutally honest in talking to the whole business – the internal audience, current customers and potential customers.

Listen to what everyone really thinks, and don’t just hear what you want to hear. Then, once the big idea is finalised, road test it against the competition. Drive that idea down to the ground, stomp on it and rebuild it to see how strong it is.

The only real risk with a never normal approach is that it may turn some people off. If the business model can be sustained by a lowest common denominator approach, then stick with normal.

However, this kind of business will almost certainly be price driven, work on low margins and have to buy customers through routes such as paid search.

To ensure a business is generating excitement, leaders need to scrap the ‘to do’ list. So, take a train to a meeting but leave the phone in a pocket and squirrel away the laptop.

See the world around you and get involved outside of the business again to discover the never normal essence that is as yet unseen.

If you can find your never normal essence, your brand will have the ability to resonate with consumers for many years to come.

Jason Triandafyllou is executive director at Designate.

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Brands Should Aspire To Be Never Normal To Compete

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