Competitive Research and Brand Positioning: Your Logo Must Be Different

January 31, 2017 | Branding and Rebranding

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Strong brand positioning involves reviewing a combination of internal and external factors.

Part of branding is self-reflective—recognizing and articulating your special strengths and unique capabilities. Uncovering the benefits of your product or service that really matter.

The other side of branding is researching the marketplace and seeing how your offerings and identity compare to what’s out there. It’s hard to be memorable when you look and sound like everyone else.

From what I see, some business owners do neither internal nor external research—this is how you end up with and inappropriate logo design regardless of whether or not they meet an aesthetic standard of good design. This is often the problem with working just with a logo designer and not a branding firm. You may end up with a great looking logo, that doesn’t convey the right brand attributes; or even worse—an ugly logo that doesn’t convey the right brand attributes.

But many business owners only complete the self-reflective work and neglect the importance of competitive research. The internal side of branding is looking at what makes your brand special and translating that into visual traits. This is important—a good logo will capture the spirit of a brand. But you also need to make sure that your brand is distinct and that there won’t be confusion because of a similar name or logo design.

Good design does not always mean good branding

Very close to my office in Portland, Maine I see the result of this type of logo work that neglects to do the most basic research of the marketplace. As I head down Congress St. to Monument Square, I walk by two hair salons right next door to one another: Salon Paragon and Salon Burke.

Not only are they right beside each other, but they have extremely similar script-letter logos. Both use a one-letter logo from similar fonts, and the letters (P and B) are also very similar letterforms.

Similar logos
Storefronts and logos from two competitors that sit side-by-side.

Looked at separately, each logo may do an excellent job creating a visual identity that captures the essence of the hair salon. The scripted monogram suggests graceful elegance, flowing beauty and traditional luxury. Note: I’ve never been inside either salon, but peeking in the windows this seems accurate of the atmosphere.

But this is where even basic competitive research is essential. It’s just plain confusing to have two hairs salons sit side by side with such similar logos.

competitive research and brand positioning

Market research or competitive research can sound intimidating, and certainly large firms spend lots of money analyzing competitors (as well as marketplace size, etc.) before launching new offerings. But basic research can be inexpensive yet critical to good brand positioning.

Review your local competitors. If you are a local business—restaurant, retail store, accountant, salon (!), etc.—take a look around and note your competition. Get a photo or screen shot of each competitor’s logo. Take a screen grab of their web sites. Take notes on the ambience of their space, if possible. Also, write down their key service offerings and benefits to ensure that you are offering a distinctly different value proposition. Make sure you share these with your designer so they design something different than a your competitors.

Review competitors online. If your business is less local, do online searches for your competitors. You should be doing this anyway to understand the marketplace. But make sure you look at their logo design, other elements of their brand identity such as colors, fonts and imagery and again read up on their key offerings, benefits and value proposition. It’s helpful to pull these together into a document, not just relying on your memory.

Seek input. Once you have a logo nearly finished, show it around and ask people if they’ve seen something similar. While you may have looked closely at your competitors, it’s important to also not look like similar businesses. For example, if you’re a health food store but have a similar logo to a yoga studio it may still cause confusion. It would be better to develop something more unique.

Remember, creating a strong logo is more than creating a design that captures your brand attributes. Your logo must also be different enough so you will not have confusion with competitive businesses. This is how you design a distinct and memorable logo.

I’m curious if anyone out there know which of these salons started first or if either had a history before locating to their current address?

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