Don't Be A Category Clone, Be Distinctive...

Which is your brand?
Something we've observed over the years is that to have the best chance of success, brands should be highly distinctive in their category. This is borne out by Byron Sharp's findings (which you can read in his excellent book How Brands Grow), being distinctive in the category makes it easier for potential customers to notice your brand, remember you, and then recognise you and select you when they come to buy.

But a large number of brands are consistently bad at this when it comes to advertising. For example, at the moment it’s barely possible to tell the difference between the advertising of different car manufacturers, or of different spirits brands.

Advertising has become plagued by clichés, category norms, comfortable territory and accepted ways of doing things.

Unfortunately for brands who have fallen victim to this, similarity is the road to obscurity (and a huge waste of marketing budget) as they become lost in the crowd.

Finding happy mediums, familiar territory and compromise might keep people happy in meetings, but it often also strips ideas of their power.

What might seem like a safe choice in the confines of a boardroom will most likely be a waste of money when it’s out in the real world.

It's an old cliché, but true, that advertising that feels safe or familiar is actually a quite risky thing to do.

There’s no ‘safety in numbers’ when it comes to advertising. If someone else is doing something similar to what you’re doing, or looks or sounds like you, you’re both in trouble.

Generating and maintaining a distinctive presence in your category will go a long way towards helping your product be the one selected by the customer.

That means more people buying your stuff, by the way.

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.


  1. This is all fine but clients don't actually want good ads.

  2. I reminded of the following by Cindy Gallup speaking at the Dublin Web Summit in 2013. Cindy Gallop gave a presentation about the “syndrome of collaborative competition” which she described as “where everyone in your sector competes with everyone else by doing exactly the same thing as everyone else, is a very dangerous thing to do, because that is what allows true innovation and disruption to come in from the outside”


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