The art of unexpected branding

Why weird works so well

At Studio Unbound we think outside the box and do things a little differently. We believe that branding works best when it contains elements of the unconventional, the unusual and the unexpected. The art of unexpected branding is difficult to master, but if done well, it can lead to some unbelievable results.
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Unexpected Branding And Packaging

Why be unexpected?

There are many benefits to adopting an unconventional brand image, name or voice. Here are three for you to think about.

Standing out from the Crowd
The first step to gaining a new customer is grabbing their attention and to do this your brand needs to stand out. Supermarket shelves stock thousands upon thousands of products. People are bombarded with brand imagery at every turn. If you are selling your product online then the competition is even greater. For your brand to successfully hold someone’s attention, it is important that it stands out from the crowd. Having a brand that is truly unique definitely helps this cause.

An Unforgettable Face: The Power of Recognisability
Having a distinctive brand and maintaining it at all touch points helps to make your brand instantly recognisable. Whether you have a unique tone of voice, use unique graphics or create a unique packaging format, having a brand image that is distinctly yours helps build familiarity with customers. This is beneficial because research has shown that people are more likely to engage with things that they are familiar with. In psychology, this is known as the “mere exposure” effect. If your brand has a strong identity, people are more likely to remember and recognise you, leading to more sales. Familiarity in Engagement and Buying Decisions -

The Human Brain Revels in the Unexpected
The human brain enjoys the novel and new. Studies have found that the pleasure centre of our brain reacts more to unpredictable pleasures than it does to predictable ones. Surprises actually cause humans to freeze for 1/25th of a second before a ‘find’ sequence is initiated in the brain which triggers curiosity and encourages us to find out more information. A surprise pulls people in and creates intrigue. For this reason, creating something that is unexpected can make people stop and take notice of your brand.

3 ways to incorporate the unexpected in your branding

Creating interesting and iconic packaging is an effective way to make your product stand out on the shelves. In the FMCG market, packaging is often the first point of communication from a brand to a customer. In fact, packaging is at times as important as the product itself. In supermarkets where tens of thousands of products are stacked on the shelves, it may be worth thinking outside the box (and we mean that literally) when it comes to your packaging.

Jif lemon juice is a great example of this. I’m sure that you can all picture the lemon shaped bottles associated with their brand. Jif completely dominated in their sector, and not for lack of competition. There were many other competitors of similar quality vying for the shopper’s attention. The problem was that next to Jif, they were forgettable. That’s because Jif had the courage to do something different. They went with the wacky. They believed in the bizarre and even though their packaging has evolved over time to make the product more practical and a little easier to stack on shelves, their brand is still instantly recognisable, novel and unforgettable. All because they thought a little differently.

We like to take our own advice here at Studio Unbound. The packaging for Popcorn Shed was designed by yours truly. We took what could have been an ordinary box and transformed it into something else. Not to toot our own horn, but we think it looks pretty great and has given the brand early success with some buyers stocking it before even trying it.
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When deciding on a brand name, it is important to remember that one word can carry a lot of meaning. Think of the greek mythology that lies behind Nike for example. The naming process presents another opportunity to incorporate the unexpected into your brand.

A good example of an unexpected brand name is the soft drinks company UGLY. What a name. It provides a huge contrast to all of the brands using positive messaging to sell their products. It creates intrigue. It makes people want to find out more. It stands out.


Unexpected collaborations can help to expand your pool of potential customers through gaining exposure in a completely unrelated sector.

The Chupa Chupa and Fila collab is a perfect example. The two brands are in different sectors, but share a young, urban audience. Through working together, they both benefited from each other’s customer base and let’s face it, created a pretty cool collection.

Of course, this is not a definitive list. There are many ways to be different. The best way is to start with a question. Why are things done the way they are? Is there a better way to do them? If there is, then take the dive and do it.

Just Do It (but not for the sake of it)

Taking the leap into the world of the unexpected can be terrifying. It takes a lot of courage to change the way that things are done - to stop following the crowd and start leading it.

A little disclaimer before you waltz into the world of the weird and wonderful. This article has presented just a few ways that you can choose to disrupt or challenge your sector. It is by no means a definitive list. To use unexpected branding successfully, you first need to work out what you want to say and then deliver that message in a way no one else does. These differences must be implemented strategically. With every branding decision you need to reflect on your audience and what effect these unexpected branding decisions will have on them. Being unusual for the hell of it isn’t going to work. These choices can be powerful, but they must make sense to your brand and audience.

We would love to hear your opinions about the world of unexpected branding. What brands came to mind when you were reading this blog?
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