Well, that’s not what they teach us!

We’re constantly being told to be DIFFERENT, to stand out from the crowd.

But I disagree. Being different isn’t the aim when designing your brand identity. Being distinctive is.

If your branding is too different, it won’t fit in your marketplace. People might assume that your product or service isn’t what they’re looking for. They’ll think it’s not for them, and look elsewhere.

It’s a nuanced subject with many complex layers, but here is a simple explanation:

Distinctive Branding:

  • Helps you stand out with meaningful impact.
  • Ensures you still fit visually within your marketplace and category.
  • Understands the visual cues your ideal client is looking for in your category while not copying or being too similar.
  • Helps people identify, recognise and buy from you in all the places your brand exists.
  • Makes your ideal client feel safe; your business feels like the right place to spend their money.

Different Branding:

  • Risks alienating your marketplace, your category, or your customer: you could end up with a brand that doesn’t belong.
  • Misses some subconscious visual cues, so people might assume your product or service isn’t what they’re looking for.
  • Sticks out like a sore thumb and possibly attracts the wrong type of buyer.

Then there is Safe Branding:

  • You follow the exact design trends or cliches in your industry or category.
  • You want to look like your competitors because it feels easier and safer.
  • You are DIYing your branding and don’t have creative & strategic design skills.

Don’t get me wrong, when you’re starting out, Safe Branding is perfectly OK. We all start where we’re at. No shame in that at all.

But once you get traction, once you have paying clients, once you feel it’s time to step up your game, that’s when you need to think about getting a Distinctive Brand.


Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Very distinctive. But, they look like they belong together in the same fizzy drink category.

Organic Kombucha. It looks very different from the fizzy drinks branding. Because it appeals to a different customer looking for a different product or experience. It fits perfectly in its category, amongst its competitors.

Imagine if the Kombucha drink designed their brand to look different from its competitors, because they wanted to stand out from the crowd. Their target customer might mistake them for another type of drink. They might assume it’s not the healthy, gut-friendly drink they’re looking for, and not buy it.

People buy from visual cues and brand messaging which elicit an emotional response.

And your category, your positioning, your marketplace, your niche all have visual cues. Find them and then design a brand that is distinctive yet not drastically different.


Need to tighten up your branding? Not sure if your current brand identity is working for you? Need a second opinion? Or just want me to check out your customer touch-points and see what’s missing in design terms?

Book a FREE Brand Audit ‘Ask Me Anything’ here – not a sales pitch, just a conversation about your business and your branding.