You’re an entrepreneur who’s ready to launch. You’ve strived to craft, hone, test and MVP the hell out of your concept. It’s now the genesis of a great business. I guarantee that your concept is very different to the initial idea you started with six months or a year ago. It’ll have similarities, share the same reason to exist, solve the same problems, but it’ll be so much more crafted, nuanced and sophisticated — perhaps even more singular in vision.
What if someone now offered to rewind time, build the first iteration of your idea and launch it? You’d resist, because you’ve learnt so much in these last months and pushed your thinking that much further. Where you started might now appear naïve, clumsy… even missing the key component. This is all very natural, as our first idea is rarely the finished product.
Why then, when it comes to branding and naming start-ups, does it appear that so many first thought, ‘page one’ ideas often end up being seen as simply good enough?
Here’s an example of what I refer to as a ‘page one’ idea. Company X is launching an organic body care range, or an all-natural foodstuff, so naturally (sic) the logo will be green with a leaf motif. It makes perfect sense, no?
Unfortunately, a quick scan of retailers reveals hundreds of other products whose founders thought exactly the same, with depressingly similar results. Thirty years ago, this solution might have been acceptable to push the ‘natural’ credentials of a new product, but today every such example on the shelves clearly shows where the client hasn’t the experience and their agency hasn’t the foresight to see this as a poor ‘me-too’ idea. It would be amusing if it weren’t so much of a depressing cliché.
This thinking is common across many sectors. Let’s consider international airport identities. Except for a smattering of outliers (Liverpool John Lennon, for example) the vast majority of logos have reference to flight, direction or motion, manifested as either swooshes, arrows or planes. Here’s the telling thing — airports don’t fly and don’t move — they don’t even own planes.
Surely that’s OK you might say, the logos are communicating transport — to which point I’d ask you to consider why all supermarkets don’t have shopping bag logos.
What these airport logos do communicate is something far more intrinsic — they tell of an industry where creative thought might be of low priority, and that benchmarking is often set against one’s peers, not the wider environment.
The very reason so many lookalike ideas get brought to market is primarily because they appear a safe and expected solution. Such designs are a solution — but to the wrong problem. The problem they are looking to solve is simply ‘how do I put some graphics or a name on my product just to get it out there?’ If you’re thinking this way, then you’re seriously underestimating your customer — whether they are a health food buyer or a CTO looking to purchase a new SaaS service.
As an agency that helps businesses to shape and launch their brands, our role is to confront visual and written clichés head on, and make our clients recognise the business value in creating stand out. The process can be intimidating, especially for first-time entrepreneurs with little experience in branding.
In reality, it’s rare that branding has to solve a single problem, usually the challenges are manifold. That’s why it’s never a case of settling on the first, obvious solution. It takes time, rigour and insight to create a brand that can carve a unique niche in any market. Whether it’s tech, UX, branding or even selecting strategic partnerships, following convention isn’t what makes exceptional products or services.
After all, as someone once said, cover bands never have the hits.