Cover Stories: Finding Inspiration in the Branding Efforts of Others Outside Your "Category"By Joe Walsh
May 10, 2016
The lattice of coincidence led me to accidentally discover these two classic album covers for two all-time musical greats.
OK. It was Facebook.
A friend had posted these two acts among his two favorites of all time with a picture of each of the covers. So, I went down to the basement and found my copies of the albums (CDs, in my case). While I've owned these two forever and played them often, I had never before noticed that they shared typography, styling, image strategy and color. Curious, I looked up the stories behind the artwork and learned the resemblance was purposeful. Insiders speculate that the Clash were either sending an anti-establishment message to the rock and roll royalty with their "cover" of Elvis' cover. Or, paying tribute to the King. Or, both.
Either way, you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with B2B brands? Good question. Here's our take:
1. Positioning strategies need to be informed by the competition. When fashioning your brand strategy, you need to look hard at the brand promises and expression of others in your market. As an example, we recently catalogued the 200 largest professional service firm websites in our study called Site VisitsSM. If you study the catalog, as we have, one could argue that too many firms skip right past positioning and branding on the web and cut right to what they wish to sell. But, that's a different blog post.
2. The look, feel and voice of the brand needs to create precedence instead of following it. In the curious case of the Clash, the London Calling art is a deliberate "replication" of Elvis' artwork. The Clash pull the "tribute" off, well, artfully. They are not copying, per se, but positioning (see above). Trade and copyright issues aside, B2B organizations should not be paying this kind of tribute to the brand standards and expression of their competitors. Sadly, we see too many firms and organizations looking too similar to one another.
3. Creative inspiration can and should be found everywhere, particularly outside your category. The further out the better, in our view. When we look for inspiration in our work for clients, it's never within the field of accounting, associations, law or consulting firms. It's always in other less expected places, like Facebook... or our basements.