The visual elements of branding play a huge part in the emotional connection a customer feels when they interact with you.

In recent years, a big criticism of new consumer brands – from skincare and dog food to mattresses and toothbrushes – is that they’ve all started to look the same. Despite identifying themselves as challengers going up against boring, old-school dinosaurs, the challengers have suddenly become boring themselves. A core part of the retail brand handbook is now slapping on a sans-serif font along with pastel colour tones, cute cartoons, and an upbeat, quirky tone of voice. Voilà – a brand is born. Critics of the genre have called such brands ‘blands’. Part of the reason why new brands do this is because the playbook often works – but who wants to live in a world where everything looks the same? 

Here are four brands that stand out from the crowd and have got their visual identity right – from packaging and typeface to everything in between.

1. Marco Sweets & Spices

What is it?

A New York-based ice cream brand that celebrates flavours from around the world. Marco sells pints on its website – you can even build your own case, too – and delivers them to your door. Flavours include Aztec Chocolate, Ginger Dreamsicle, Spicy PB Caramel, Thai Coco-Lime and Vanilla Chai. 

How they nailed it 

Marco has managed to make a visual identity that’s simultaneously heavy on nostalgia and super-modern, with a bit of wanderlust thrown in. The logotype eschews the sans-serif fad and goes all in with a fresh but vintage feel.

2. Parade 

What is it?

Founded by Cami Téllez, who recently did a stint as Courier’s Startup Diarist, Parade’s mission is to rewrite the American underwear story. ‘I grew up seeing supermodels blown up on storefronts and thinking: this is what it means to be sexy,’ Cami says. ‘For too long, underwear has been about restricting us to a flat pink surface, but now we know that’s just one glint in the sea of self-expression.’ 

How they nailed it

Parade’s visual identity lands far from the branding of classic underwear labels, and drops its anchor firmly in a Gen Z world where size inclusivity and body positivity take centre stage.

3. Ocelot Chocolate

What is it?

In 2013, married couple Matt and Ish started making chocolate in their apartment in Edinburgh, Scotland, wrapped it in cellophane and sold it at farmers’ markets. Today, as Ocelot Chocolate, they produce bars in a local ‘micro chocolate factory’, wrap them in gorgeous packaging and sell them around the world.

How they nailed it

Ish studied illustration at art school, so her and Matt draw and design all the artwork and packaging themselves. They say that coming up with designs that have a ‘meaning beyond the aesthetic’ is a ‘hugely important part of our business’. The bars have beautiful, graphic design-heavy packaging, with bright, contrasting colours, angles and shapes. If the Bauhaus school got into the chocolate game, the result would be Ocelot.

4. Gro-To

What is it?

Former magazine beauty editor Zoë Foster Blake saw a gap in the market for clean skincare products that were also fun. In 2014, she launched her own Melbourne-based brand Go-To to fill that gap – and two years later she launched an equally fun, non-irritating, hypoallergenic product line for children, Gro-To.

How they've nailed it

Designing a brand for kids is tricky – the child might be the end consumer, but the parents are the ones buying it. Gro-To does a great job at appealing to both adults and kids with super-cute animated faces and bright colours. 

This article is taken from Courier’s How to Start a Business, a comprehensive 10-step guide to launching a new venture. From finding your big idea and doing the research, through to developing your product or service, building your brand and getting the word out, How to Start a Business is packed full with expert insight, tips, case studies and key info from those in the know and those who have done it before. Head this way to buy a copy on Courier’s web shop.

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