Unlocking the Secrets of Brand Design

Unlocking the Secrets of Brand Design

In the bustling world of marketing and branding, the visual design of a product can make all the difference in capturing consumer attention. But how does this design match the brand identity and product category, especially when a brand decides to extend its reach into new territory? Let's delve into the fascinating findings of a recent study that sheds light on these questions and more.

Traditionally, it's been believed that products should fit neatly into their designated categories, aligning with consumer expectations and brand identity. Think of luxury cars, designer handbags, or stylish watches – these products are expected to embody the essence of their respective brands. However, the latest research challenges this notion, suggesting that a lack of alignment between product design and brand identity might be good, especially for lesser-known brands.

Interestingly, this research by Sunway University's Associate Professor Dr Goh Yi Sheng and colleagues reveals that when a product breaks away from the norm and introduces something unexpected, consumers tend to respond positively – a phenomenon attributed to the concept of perceived novelty. In other words, when a product stands out as unique or unconventional, it piques consumer interest. It creates a sense of excitement, particularly for brands still establishing themselves in the market.

But the story doesn't end there. While product design plays a crucial role, the brand's strength also comes into play. Strong brands, like well-known household names, benefit from a more traditional approach, where the product design aligns closely with consumer expectations, that is, to strive for typical design for both brand identity and product appearance. On the other hand, weaker or lesser-known brands can leverage product atypicality to their advantage, using unconventional designs to capture consumer attention and establish their presence in the market.

Moreover, the study highlights the differences in consumer responses based on their level of innovativeness. Innovators – those more open to new ideas and experiences – tend to place greater importance on brand identity and product typicality, especially when evaluating solid brands. That is when the product appearance aligns closely with the norm of the product category, innovators favour designs that closely resemble brand identity, excellent brands. In contrast, non-innovators may prioritise brand identity over product typicality, favouring products that align closely with their expectations of a familiar brand.

From a practical standpoint, these findings offer designers and product managers valuable insights. For established brands, maintaining a balance between brand identity and product typicality is critical to fostering positive consumer perceptions and driving sales. However, for up-and-coming brands, embracing product atypicality can be a strategic move, helping them stand out in a crowded marketplace and carve out a niche.

Ultimately, the success of a brand's design strategy hinges on understanding its unique position in the market and tailoring its approach accordingly. By striking the right balance between tradition and innovation, brands can captivate consumers' imaginations and pave the way for long-term success in an ever-evolving landscape.


Associate Professor Dr Goh Yi Sheng
School of Arts
Email: @email

This article has been adapted from Goh Yi Sheng, Veena Chattaraman, and Soo In Shim (2024), Can Atypicality in Product Design Benefit Brands? : Trade-Offs in Product and Brand Typicality and the Mediating Role of Perceived Novelty, DOI: 10.18848/2325-162X/CGP/v18i01/103-130