What’s the point in marketing if no-one knows it’s you?

Being distinct helps you stand out, get remembered, and chosen more often. But did you know that only 15% of brand assets are distinctive? Surprising, right? It really makes you think about the sheer volume of content, ads, marketing and branding that either isn’t recognised as being from your brand or is misattributed. In the cluttered B2B tech world, grabbing attention is tough. So when you do, you don’t want to fluff your lines.

Author: Alex Waite, Marketing Director, Shaped By

©Copyright Drift
©Copyright Zendesk

The art of branding: Your unique signature

There’s a beautiful phrase that says branding’s role is the marketing equivalent of signing your painting. And distinctiveness is your style. I love it. It articulates the point so well. When anything you produce is out in the world, the acid test is someone seeing it and instantly making an association with your brand. Whether they have seen an advert, logo, colour, font, piece of narrative/copy, mascot, or graphical treatment.

Some B2B brands that are masterly at this. Think of Salesforce and their mascot. Think of Drift and their brand icon, their use of human imagery to sell technology. Intuit Mailchimp’s icon, their tone of voice. HubSpot’s association with orange. Zapier’s distinct use of motion – the list goes on. Differentiation is relative; you can’t ever really own a colour, but you can own the association of it in the minds of your consumers more strongly than other brands – and that’s what you’re shooting for.

Being remembered isn’t as easy as awareness

Building a B2B brand depends on how memorable you are. Drew Leahy, Head of Product Marketing & Competitive Intelligence at HockeyStack, emphasised the shift in B2B buying behaviour. People start their research with a small number of businesses they recognise and recall. Your brand should make you the automatic no-brainer for shortlisting.

But being remembered isn’t as easy as awareness – part of the solution is having a distinctive brand. Your brand and everything associated need to be obviously yours to build that familiarity and trust. Assets act as a mental shortcut meaning we can decode without having to think about them. It creates new opportunities to be chosen over your competitors and moves you away from being a commodity. And after all, awareness without association is a waste of money.

©Copyright Intuit Mailchimp
©Copyright Intuit Mailchimp

Crafting your unique boldness

At Shaped By, we’ve been beating this drum for a while. It was the core theme at our two day virtual summit last year – Bring Your Own Bold. To thrive as a business – you need to embrace a bold that’s authentic and unique to your brand. There are different ways to approach this – but they need to come from within.

In the session on Difference makes the difference: Standing out by finding your bold, Ling Koay, Chief Brand Officer at Oneflow nailed it, suggesting looking back into the company to see the DNA. When you think about finding your bold, yes, it’s about being different, but it’s about your company’s DNA, and how brand marketing can help you express it. There’s no point in being ‘look at me courageous’ if it’s not your vibe – people will be turned off.

But if that is part of your brand, heed the wise words of these two brand leaders. Buck Choate, VP Brand at Lacework says, you can be category-defining rather than merely category-inspired. Look for inspiration outside of your category, and at non-traditional competitors. Or go down the route Island did with Ari Yablok, Head of Brand. Their product sprang from a desire to build something that didn’t exist before – so they challenged themselves to be unconventional with their brand.

This is what we mean when we talk to clients about finding their bold. Something from your core that is ownable.

The delicate dance of brand consistency

Consistency is the goal with distinctive brand assets. Define them, hone them, make them uniquely yours, and then use them consistently everywhere. All the time. Even when you’re bored of them. Because by the time as a brand leader you’ve had enough of them, they are just starting to land with your consumers.

But there the potential tension between innovation and brand consistency is real. Andrea Carillo from Drift emphasises the “non-negotiables”- the drift logo, icon, the colour palette, and the bold art. These are the core distinctive assets that trigger the Drift brand in people’s minds – and they are not to be played around with. And this is bang on. When people are out of market, the goal is to build up and freshen their mental structures. Constantly tweaking your brand identity too much creates a slow death by a thousand cuts.

©Copyright Drift

Balancing consistency and adaptability

Outside of that, there is room to flex. Tap into the feeling you want to land rather than how you’re using certain elements. This is especially important in tech where showing your product or service in connection with humans is crucial. Sub-brands offer adaptability without losing consistency. Taking similar pieces, looking at the angles, or the colour and applying them in a new way. It creates a new design system, without losing consistency and recognition. Drift did exactly this with some of their sub-brands for GTM Labs. We’ve done it with Lacework for a bunch of campaigns, and also Rubrik for their thought leadership reports.

It allows for some more excitement and less pressure on pulling away from your core distinctive brand assets, and gives you that flexibility within the brand with more options of where you can take it.

Tips for building distinctive assets:

  1. If you’re at the start, audit what you have – logos, shapes, patterns, colours, fonts, sounds, characters etc.
  2. Consider measuring your brand assets quantitatively – what’s associated with your brand? How strong is the linkage?
  3. Pick your strongest assets – aim for high fame and uniqueness and hammer their usage.
  4. Once established, don’t be afraid to flex them – invert, flip, play to keep them fresh – but not at the expense of losing your established assets.
  5. Explore sub-brands, content and campaigns that give you an exciting flexibility within your brand. 

Our Work

Matt Price
Senior Director, Creative

Matt Price is a creative leader with a career that has traversed award-winning agencies, high-performance brands, and innovative start-ups.

Fueled by a deep passion for cultivating dynamic creative teams and crafting distinctive brand experiences, Matt has earned a reputation for shaping and evolving brands across diverse industries. He currently leads creativity at TravelPerk.

Melissa Rosenthal
Chief Creative Officer

Melissa is an award-winning marketing executive and the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, focused on making the world more productive through best-in-class SaaS marketing.

Previously Melissa was the CRO/Executive Vice President at Cheddar, a live video media company at the intersection of business news and culture. For her brand work, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People Under 30 and as one of Digiday’s “Changemakers.”

Prior to Cheddar, she led BuzzFeed’s Global Creative Team. Joining the staff in 2010, Rosenthal was a key contributor to the creation and early success of BuzzFeed’s branded content native advertising model.

Melissa Rosenthal
Chief Creative Officer

Melissa is an award-winning marketing executive and the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, focused on making the world more productive through best-in-class SaaS marketing.

Previously Melissa was the CRO/Executive Vice President at Cheddar, a live video media company at the intersection of business news and culture. For her brand work, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People Under 30 and as one of Digiday’s “Changemakers.”

Prior to Cheddar, she led BuzzFeed’s Global Creative Team. Joining the staff in 2010, Rosenthal was a key contributor to the creation and early success of BuzzFeed’s branded content native advertising model.

Ari Yablok
Head of Brand 

Ari Yablok is the Head of Brand at Island, the Enterprise Browser. Before joining Island as its first marketing hire, Ari was the Head of Brand Messaging at Atreo, a B2B tech branding and marketing agency, where he crafted the strategic narratives, end-to-end messaging, corporate and investor decks, and brand identities for 50+ leading tech companies including Taboola, Similarweb, Gloat, JFrog, and Panaya. Originally from New Jersey, Ari lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel with his wife and six children.

Ling Koay
Chief Brand Officer

Ling is a fearless B2B marketer and a purposeful leader with almost two decades of experience driven by growing businesses through creativity, art, and science. Recently, she was named “CMO to Watch in 2022” by CMO Alliance. She has also led the Oneflow brand to be one of the “B2B Brands to Watch in 2022” alongside brands like Slack, Gong, and Tiktok Business.

Ling’s mission is to inspire humans to find and embrace their superpowers so that we can transform mediocrity into magic in our lives. Marketing to her is using ideas to change minds. Move the needle. Make sales easier. Being a mom of two kids under 6, marketing is essential to win day-to-day negotiations. Recently she gave up her CMO title to focus on the brand. Call her crazy, but marketing is the puzzle she needs to solve every day to make her life complete.

Buck Choate
VP Brand

Buck Choate is a distinguished brand and marketing leader that thrives at the intersection of strategy, stories, and ideas. As VP of Brand at Lacework, he spearheads brand management, activations, social and editorial content, and brand design. Buck has spent his 15+ year career working with iconic global brands like Microsoft, Intel, Fender, Walmart, Ubisoft, PepsiCo, and 7-Eleven.

Damien Correll
Creative Director

Based in NYC, Damien Correll is the Creative Director at Figma where he leads their Brand Studio. Over the past 20 years, he’s worked on both the brand and product sides (and some of the places in-between), Whether it’s running his own practice or working in-house at one of the largest companies in the world, he’s in the pursuit of great design by making the expected surprising, the strange familiar, and the accessible abundant.

Ben Long
Creative Director

Make fun stuff for people to enjoy. That’s why we all got into this in the first place. And if you can do that while delivering strategic and purposeful creative that meets brand goals? Now you’re on to something.

That’s what Ben Long has been aiming at for the last six years at Rubrik, leading the global brand team as Creative Director. Ben loves nothing more than when a team comes together to pull off something that’s a little risky and a lot unexpected.

Ben lives in the Bay Area with his wife, two kids, and a giant dog that’s way too big for his house

Steve Stone
Head of Zero Labs

Steve has over fifteen year’s experience in threat intelligence and event response with positions in the US military, intelligence community, and private sector. Steve held a number of roles to include threat intelligence, service delivery, and various leadership positions at Mandiant, FireEye, and IBM in the private sector. He is a frequent contributor and presenter in a variety of industry forums/conferences.

Wei Kee
Client Services Director
Shaped By

As Client Services Director at Shaped By, Wei Kee leads the team to deliver on the promises they make, working closely with clients to kick personal, team, and business goals.

A true advocate of good design and innovative creative solutions, she works hard to ensure a strong, unified dynamic between internal/external creative, and wider teams.

Wei subscribes to an empathetic and human-centric approach to developing deep relationships with clients near and far, always ensuring that the process to achieving business success is collaborative and enjoyable.

Outside of work, she loves to cook, eat and feed.

Tom Ovens
Creative Director
Shaped By

An ambassador of embracing the art of simplicity, Tom enjoys ripping things apart to delve deeper and explore meaningful ways to create authentic and impactful visual communications.

He loves leading the talented Shaped By design team to push boundaries, build recognition and make a difference for our clients. He is passionate about collaborating with his team, partners and clients to land on creative solutions that help fulfil personal, team and business objectives.

You’ll often hear Tom swooning over a new typeface he’s discovered, or discussing ‘Tittles’ (Google with care). In his free time he loves to disappear on his bike.

Jessica Bognar
Creative Director – Brand

Jessica is an award-winning creative leader at Salesforce with a track record of transforming teams and brands through strategic storytelling, humanity, and humor. For the past eight years she’s been an integral part of building the Salesforce brand. Her current role is leading Brand & Partnerships creative.

Aaron Poe
Head of Creative

Aaron Poe is a strategic Creative Director with over 17 years of experience branding and launching natively digital companies. His passion is building brands that are simple and timeless, striking the right balance of emotional connection and functional design. Currently, in his role as Creative Director at Zapier, he leads a multidisciplinary team of brand and digital designers within the global brand studio.

Jessica Rosenberg
Director of Brand Design

Jessica has 17+ years of experience helping brands tell their stories in differentiated and breakthrough ways.

Jess’s skills as a designer, creative, and leader have been shaped by working across notable companies in advertising and tech: Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Twitter, Cloudflare, Mural, and Webflow. She’s just as passionate about coming up with the big idea as she is executing it. Jess recently joined the Design org at ONE finance leading the brand design function.

Jess lives in Austin, TX with her husband and four kids.

Rachel Gogel
Independent Design Executive

Rachel is a Parisian creative director, graphic designer, educator, and speaker based in San Francisco. She runs her own consultancy where her approach is informed by experiences both in-house and agency side. As a fractional design executive and queer leader, Rachel believes in fostering inclusive spaces that unlock human potential. She is committed to designing teams that build brands — with a focus on culture and technology. Over the last fifteen years, Rachel has led major initiatives at GQ, The New York Times, Meta, Godfrey Dadich, Departures, Airbnb, and Dropbox.

Currently, you can find her shaping employee experiences, coaching design leaders, building TV show pitch decks for public figures and media executives, and developing brand identity systems for academic institutions and startups.

Kaite Rosa
Senior Director of Brand 

Kaite Rosa is Senior Director of Brand at Axonius, where she leads the award-winning team responsible for creating a $2.6 billion brand in less than five years. Cited as one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity brands in history, Axonius has been named one of the most valuable private cloud companies in the world by the Forbes Cloud 100, along with numerous industry accolades.

A life-long writer, Kaite is passionate about using storytelling and creative concepts to define and build exceptional brand experiences. Her work on the campaign “Controlling Complexity”, starring the most decorated gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, has earned her two Telly awards.

Nick Farrar
Shaped By

Nick is the founder of Shaped By and has spent the last 20+ years in working with B2B brands. He has an in-depth understanding of what makes brands work, live and breathe and knows exactly how to maximise ROI for clients.

He is a passionate advocate for the use of creativity in strategic business thinking, and is well-versed in helping others tell their own story through design in a way that engages their audience.

Nando Costa

Nando Costa is a Brazilian-American artist-turned-designer with a wealth of experience spanning branding, motion graphics, and user experience design. As a design leader at Microsoft, he explores the confluence of traditional 2D UX, immersive three-dimensional environments, and the realm of generative AI technology.

Prelini Udayan-Chiechi
SVP Global Marketing

Prelini leads demand, growth, performance, operations, partner and regional marketing at Zendesk. Her responsibilities include driving all demand and growth for the company’s business in more than 160 countries globally across the entire demand funnel.

As well as being an accomplished public speaker, she is also a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. Her role as executive sponsor of Zendesk’s Mosaic employee community helps people of colour and allies at the company to embrace and celebrate their differences.