What Makes a Brand Stand Out?

Learn what makes a brand stand out from the competition. Our experts share tips and advice on effective differentiation strategies.


June 21, 2024

What makes a brand stand out

Consumers have countless brands vying for their attention. But it takes much more than a catchy tagline or savvy digital marketing campaign to make your brand stand out from the crowd. The 'hidden' elements create familiarity and a deeper connection with potential customers.

In this post, we'll explore the best ways to make a brand stand out. You'll also learn how these hidden elements enhance customer perception and create differentiation.

Table of Contents

    What makes a brand stand out, design, or promotion?

    Both design and promotion play a crucial role in making a brand stand out. A visually appealing design attracts attention, but effective promotion cultivates visibility and awareness. A successful brand integrates both elements to differentiate itself.

    Creating differentiation with a brand strategy

    Before we examine the hidden elements that make your business stand out, we'll look at the more obvious. Here are the core elements of a brand identity:

    • Name
    • Color scheme
    • Typography
    • Images and graphics
    • Tone and voice
    • Slogan

    All these factors play a role in differentiation, but true differentiation runs deeper. After all, how many shades of blue can we use for logo design?

    Relying on these visual cues often isn't enough. Competitive analysis reveals that countless companies use similar, if not identical, imagery. So, the 'hidden' elements offer far greater potential for crafting a unique identity.

    Popular logos grouped by color

    The potential for deeper differentiation

    The potential for more profound differentiation lies in a brand's emotional connection with its audience. A company can create a lasting impact beyond its products or services by offering compelling reasons to buy, exceptional customer service, and social responsibility.

    Competitor analysis: Where they fall short

    Start by analyzing competitor websites, marketing materials, and social media platforms. Pay close attention to their narratives, purpose statements, and customer experiences.

    What's missing? What customer desires are they neglecting? These gaps become different opportunities for you to exploit.

    Brand audit: Unearthing your differentiation goldmine

    Competitor analysis helps you understand the market landscape. But an audit provides new ideas and empowers you to leverage your own unique strengths. Here's how:

    • Unearthing your authentic purpose: An audit goes beyond mission statements. It uncovers your core purpose–the 'why' behind your existence. Is it revolutionizing an industry? Empowering a specific community? Addressing a pressing social issue? A strong purpose is the driving force behind every decision you make. When it aligns with your customer's values, it creates a connection that's tough to replicate.
    • Identifying your values compass: Your brand's values are guiding principles. Are you known for innovation, sustainability, or unwavering customer focus? An audit clarifies these values so you can be sure they'll resonate throughout your brand experience.
    • Discovering your customer empathy superpower: An audit will help you learn more about your ideal customer. What are their unmet needs? What motivates them? You'll find clues that help you create informative content, product features, and services beyond the generic.
    Internal vs. External Branding Examples
    Internal vs. External Branding Examples

    The hidden elements of a brand identity

    When people think of an identity, the visual elements come to mind. However, the unseen components are the important qualities that make more impact.

    Brand values

    Brand values are the principles your organization stands for. They are the foundation of your identity. They also serve as a compass for decision-making and guide interactions with customers.

    Values also play a crucial role in building better relationships and customer loyalty. They show customers what they can expect from their relationship with your organization. So, businesses should define their values and uphold them at all costs. The slightest deviation can damage the brand's reputation.

    Brand persona

    If your brand was a person, how would they speak and act?

    Defining your brand's personality involves understanding its traits and characteristics. Then, you must use these traits to develop a voice that resonates with the target audience.

    Some think creating a persona for a company is a fluffy (and mostly useless) concept. But it serves a critical function. A persona helps a company attract its best (translation: most profitable) customers.

    I'll give you an example. Consider a luxury outdoor apparel brand. The company projects a sophisticated, adventurous, and eco-conscious image. This persona can attract affluent outdoor enthusiasts who value sustainability and exceptional craftsmanship. These people are more likely to pay more for premium outdoor apparel.

    You've probably bought a product or service from a company because you felt a connection to them, whether you realized it or not.

    Brand story

    The brand story concept has been beaten to death. And it can be ineffective if it isn't executed properly. Here's why many brand stories fall flat:

    • It lacks authenticity. Consumers can sniff out stories that feel contrived. What's worse is when a company uses one purely for marketing purposes. A company loses credibility when its actions don't align with the story it tells.
    • Focuses on the brand, not the customer. Many businesses are self-absorbed and talk about themselves too much. Instead, they should focus on the difference they're making in the customer's life.
    • Generic and uninspiring. Bland stories filled with buzzwords and little originality fade into the noise.

    Instead of making these same mistakes, here are some tips to help you create a story with meaning:

    Communicate the brand's true purpose. What's the 'why' behind your brand? How does it make the world a better place?

    Remember, the customer is the hero. Don't make your brand the star. Put your customers at the center of the narrative. You are the guide that helps them achieve their goals.

    Go for an emotional connection. Tap into universal human emotions, like struggles, desires, and triumphs. Emotion shows the human side of your business and makes your story relatable.

    Show, don't tell. Avoid telling everyone how great your product is. Show the audience using real-world examples. For example, provide customer testimonials or behind-the-scenes glimpses of your company culture.

    Consistency is key. Your story shouldn't be hidden away on your website's about page. Weave it into everything you do, from product design to the social media strategy.

    Remember, a great story isn't about what you say, it's about what you do.

    Brand Identity Flow Chart (Click to expand)

    Stand out from the crowd with consistency

    The Billboard Effect is a real thing. Consistency breeds brand awareness.

    Everyone loves novelty. But the brands we can pick from a lineup aren't always the ones that made us laugh on social media last week. They're the ones we've seen a hundred times, in a hundred places, maintaining a clear and constant image.

    A tale of two golden arches

    Consider this: you glance across the street and catch sight of those iconic golden arches. You immediately recognize them. You don't give it a second thought because you don't need to. That's the power every business aspires to attain.

    The long game of being uncool

    Consistency is vital for the long game. You must show up, looking like and sounding like your brand every day, everywhere. This extends to the image you project in every market, whether on Instagram or at an in-person event. Consistency builds trust and recognition with your target market. It's a tried-and-true strategy for strengthening your brand's presence and impact.

    Your purpose isn't a slogan

    A mission statement framed in a dusty office is not a purpose. True purpose is a living, breathing force that drives every decision. It's the reason you design products a certain way and the change you strive to create in the world.

    Look to the boldest brands who get it right. Patagonia's fierce environmentalism dictates its fabric choices, partnerships, and activism. Dove's focus on real beauty transforms the way women see themselves.

    Defining your authentic purpose takes courage. Dive deep and discover what your brand stands for and why you exist. Your purpose has to be more than a unique selling proposition or generating a profit. This soul-searching is the birthplace of real differentiation. When your purpose becomes your compass, you build a brand with a magnetic pull in an ocean or ordinary.

    Customer Empathy Map

    It's not about you, it's about the target audience

    To connect with your audience, you must understand what makes them tick. This process goes deeper than demographics. You must explore their values, beliefs, and desires. When you know your customers, you can build an experience that shows them why they should choose you over a competitor.

    Empathy is a powerful differentiator. Your customers' frustrations and aspirations are the ingredients of compelling messages and experiences. Empathy is an emotion that fuels loyalty and organic word-of-mouth marketing. These set you apart from competitors who focus on transactions.

    The sincerity of a customer-centric brand

    A customer-centric brand becomes a customer favorite. Take a page out of Slack's or Airbnb's playbook. These companies have built equity by putting the target audience at the heart of everything they do. Personalized messaging, creating a sense of community—these companies have mastered the art of catering to their audience's needs and desires.

    It's not easy, but it can be done. Customer data, feedback, and organizational change can help you make the shift. Let's stop telling people what we want them to hear and start listening to what they tell us.

    What makes your brand stand out?

    It's time to rethink our branding strategies. But where do you start?

    At The Brand Auditors, we understand the challenges CMOs and marketing leaders face. Our comprehensive brand audit services go beyond logos and taglines.

    Contact us today, and let's start the conversation.

    Brand Strategist | Managing Director

    Chris has over 15 years of experience in brand development and marketing. He has designed strategies across various industries, such as technology, B2B services, and healthcare. His areas of expertise include brand positioning, competitive analysis, content marketing, and web development.

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