Fit In or Stand Out? Different Takes on Differentiation.
February 3, 2012 ‐ 0 comments

The current uproar over the Susan G. Komen Foundation got us thinking. Not about politics. Not about crisis communications. Rather, it got us thinking about colored ribbons, blue circles and what brands can learn from them.почему одинаковые на внешний вид дома имеют разную цену?

How many of these awareness ribbons did you recognize? We got 3, but were surprised the artist who pulled together the graphic above chose to omit Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia’s iconic red and gold ribbon.

The red and gold ribbon is, of course, not at all iconic. But ribbons are. In the United States and beyond, the small looped ribbon is widely recognized as a symbol for an altruistic cause. So if we were trying to raise awareness and money for a recondite condition, we’d find a new color combination and start purchasing ribbons with alacrity. That’s what the Komen foundation did, after all. Yellow ribbons had been used for decades in association with the American military, and some AIDS organizations were using rainbow ribbons in the mid 80’s before settling on red in the early 90’s.

When a Brand Should Blend

As loyal readers of this blog know, there’s nothing we love more than originality, so why would we add one more to the sea of ribbons that are already out there? Because it takes time and costs money to start from scratch. Organizations created to address an obscure disease or charity usually don’t have the latter and would prefer not to squander the former. A ribbon is a shortcut that lets people know immediately that you’re up to something noble.

Are you starting a new business or launching a new product without the unlimited resources to cement it in the consciousness of that business or product’s particular public? Consider creating an identity that makes you or your product fit in with the considered set – and makes it easier for potential customers to figure out what you’re offering. There’s a reason most law firms use serif fonts in their logos, and that most tech startups choose quirky, made-up compound words for names.

When a Brand Should Differentiate

On the other hand, some groups are working to galvanize diabetes groups around a blue circle. Diabetes is a well-known and well-understood disease. It affects a large (and growing) number of people. A number of very large organizations all over the world are making long-term efforts to combat the disease, and if they aligned their efforts they would have a good chance of creating the kind of awareness that would put the blue circle on par with the yellow, pink and red ribbons.

Are you starting a new business or launching a new product with a war chest set aside for promotion? If that’s the case, it’a time to bring in the right-brained, lateral thinkers and try to create the next Ally, Accenture or jetBlue.


Of course, we’re oversimplifying things. You can create a safe identity, but use other aspects of your brand, marketing and promotions to help you stand out. It is possible to create something new, spend next to nothing and still see it become a household name. Let’s just hope it’s not because you inadvertently sparked a political firestorm.

*For those of you who must know how many of the ribbons above you guessed correctly (and who trust Wikipedia) here’s a thorough list.


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