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Brands making the biggest impact

6-minute read

An off-the-wall approach can do wonders for a brand. Here’s a round-up of companies that aren’t afraid to stand out…

Brand logos

Love ‘em or hate ‘em – these are the brands that have broken the mould and created a personality that’s unashamedly different. One thing you’ll probably agree on, though, is they’ve certainly found a way to get noticed.

1.  Innocent

We can’t kick off a blog about quirky brands without paying homage to Innocent. The smoothie giant is the king of kook, injecting fun into every customer touchpoint. The cornerstone of its brand personality is an ultra chatty tone of voice, which never falters, whether you’re reading the side of a bottle or scrolling through Twitter.

But beyond the great brand voice is a serious sense of fun. Take the packaging for example. Essential info aside (and even that has the Innocent touch), every bottle and carton contains a secret message. Some of them even sport little charity bobble hats knitted by customers.And whichever smoothie or juice you’ve plumped for there’s always a cheeky invitation to get in touch. If you don’t fancy some of the more off-the-wall options (smoke signals, carrier pigeon or telepathy) you might accept their offer of popping into Fruit Towers or calling them on their banana phone (a real thing, allowing them to speak to bored drinkers since 1999).

Adverts, meanwhile, never fail to raise a smile or a gasp (the Coleen V Rebekah example is case in point). And, as you’d expect, Innocent’s social media marketing is chock-full of comedy. Tweets are delivered in their trademark conversational style, with nuggets like ‘We make healthy drinks. Please buy them so we don’t get fired’, as well as random gags about the weather and service announcements from the ‘Royal Society of Seasonally Appropriate Emojis’.

Elsewhere, their blog features everything from co-workers’ pranks to funny names for dental practices (yes, really – The Molar System was a particular favourite). We warned you it was quirky.

2. Netflix 

You’d think Netflix could afford to chill when it came to creating a winning brand personality – after all, its binge-worthy films and boxsets pretty much sell themselves. But, in fact, it’s done the total opposite, going great guns with nailing down a distinctive (and popular) persona.

Granted, Netflix isn’t nearly as random as Innocent, but a smart, subtle sense of humour is most definitely at the heart of its success. Social media is where it really shines, winning clicks and shares with hilarious memes and GIFs. Crucially, gags are all based on funny moments from its shows, so it’s able to highlight what’s currently streaming, almost without you realising you’re being sold to.

They’ve got witty comebacks down to a fine art, too, which only serves to enhance Netflix’s reputation as an entertainment kingpin. All in all, it’s a winning formula – the streaming giant has a fan following of 72 million on Facebook (nearly five times higher than its closest competitor, Amazon Prime Video), almost 10 million Twitter followers, and 25 million on Instagram. Impressive.  

3. Greggs

Now this is one marketing meeting we’d have loved to have been in on – the one where Greggs decided to liken its ‘next generation’ vegan sausage roll to a bit of hi-tech kit, highlighting its length, flake resolution and mega-bite count. Yep, really. Check out the launch video. As well as the video, they sent journalists the baked treat in a box bearing an uncanny resemblance to that of an iPhone.

Greggs vegan sausage roll

Unconventional, yes. Clever, also yes. It’s just one of the ways Greggs has made a name for itself through quirky, tongue-in-cheek marketing. As well as head-turning campaigns, the high street giant is letting its personality shine on social media, with plenty of down-to-earth humour and fun. It’s managed to swerve some potential PR disasters with its witty comebacks, too. One that made headlines was an encounter with Piers Morgan who remarked ‘Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns’. Their reply? ‘Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you’.

The company’s social media surge is all part of a masterplan to transition Greggs from a traditional baker to a food-on-the-go company offering decent coffee and healthy alternatives. And the marketing push is certainly hitting the spot – last year the company beat off stiff competition from big-hitters Netflix and Cadbury’s to win UK Brand of the Year at the Marketing Week Masters Awards.

4. Old Spice

Here’s one that’s utterly fearless when it comes to carving its own identity. Old Spice is off-the-scale bonkers – and couldn’t be prouder.  

The name has been around since 1937, when it was pegged as the ultimate gentlemen’s grooming brand. In the decades that followed, it built up a loyal following of older men. But a 2010 advert launched it into a new stratosphere. ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ made fun of stereotypical manliness and, in doing so, bagged Old Spice an army of much younger fans. Since then, they’ve built on this success, cultivating a brand personality that’s weird, wacky and wildly entertaining.

Old Spice man on horse

Its product descriptions are a shining example. Classics include ‘Pure Sport Body Spray smells like tennis balls dunked in expensive champagne, set on fire and then juggled at a romantic candlelit dinner’, and the explanation for Old Spice Danger Zone, ‘It takes a lot of confidence to moonwalk into a grizzly bear cave wearing a bacon suit, but that confidence is always rewarded.’

Manliness remains at the heart of the brand’s humour. Its Twitter tag line is ‘MUSCLES. SMELLS. LAZERS. GIFS.’ accompanied by an image of laser-shooting helicopters, sharks, and lions with bulging human biceps.

It shouldn’t work – but it does.

5. Dove

Dove is proof that you don’t need to be a laugh-a-minute brand to get noticed. The British cosmetics giant has built its identity around body positivity and confidence. But it’s done it in an unconventional way.

You won’t find the usual models in its ad campaigns – the ones with flawless skin, glossy hair and impossibly white teeth. Instead, you’ll see women with skin conditions, women who are older or bigger than the industry norm, people who are transgender – basically, real people from all walks of life.

It all began in 2004 when Dove launched its campaign for real beauty. Ads featured photos of regular women and invited people to vote on whether they were ‘Flawed or flawless?’, ‘Grey or gorgeous?’, ‘Withered or wonderful?’. Since then, we’ve seen a steady stream of campaigns that feature real women and break those long-standing beauty stereotypes. The latest is Project #ShowUs, a collection of 10,000 images that offer a more inclusive vision of beauty. Powerful stuff.

The unconventional approach – how to do it well

Breaking with convention can be a great way to stand out from the crowd, but it’s something that needs to be handled carefully. Here are our top tips for success…

* Define your brand first Think of your company as a person.  How would you describe them in three words?  Once you’ve nailed down a persona, stick to it. With each campaign, tweet or interaction, ask yourself – would they say or do that?

* Give plenty of thought to your tone of voice All the big names here use a distinctive brand voice to get across their personality. A conversational style helps build friendships and encourages people to interact with you. 

* Be bold – if it’s appropriate The best brands aren’t afraid to make bold jokes, tongue-in-cheek comments or powerful statements. Take care not to cross the line, though. Witty banter between customers and other brands is one thing, but keep it light to avoid a fallout.

* Master customer interaction on social Reply to comments and spark discussion on social media – it’s a relaxed way to build relationships and grow brand loyalty.

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