Written by: Damiel Bakare
Standing out from your competitors has never been more challenging. After recently attending the Awwwards Digital Thinkers conference in Amsterdam, we’re sharing some of the speakers’ tips for setting your business apart from the crowd.
The world has become increasingly digital. Instead of commuting or visiting the doctor’s office, for example, we can now work or use telemedicine services without leaving our couches. Plus, the pandemic accelerated globalization and made the online world feel smaller than ever. Everyone now is inspired by the same events, people, and trends, which means standing out from the crowd has never been more challenging.
But it’s still possible! Let’s dive into the four ways to differentiate yourself in a sea of sameness, according to speakers at this year’s Digital Thinkers Conference.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Creativity Lead UX Strategy
While many insist UX strategy should always come first, Irene Pereyra understands that creating practical and human-centered designs doesn’t mean blindly following UX rules. And in her talk, she encouraged the audience to challenge accepted standards when necessary.
She told us that while UX can be simple, frictionless, and functional, it can also be complex, difficult, and creative — and that the latter is often better. Specifically, sometimes breaking UX conventions will create a better product, so long as the designer strikes the right balance between UX art and science.
Take the Aesthetic-Usability Effect, mentioned in Irene’s talk, where an experiment by the Hitachi Design Center in Japan tested variations of an ATM UI. When faced with the choice between ugly ATMs with perfect UX and beautiful ATMs with terrible UX, people chose the beautiful ones, proving that letting creativity lead design and breaking conventions can pay off.
2. Be A for Purpose Business, Not Just for Profit
For the dynamic duo leading the independent design studio, Cabeza Patata, the key to standing out is establishing yourself as a for-purpose business. Not sure what that means? Check out Patagonia! Yvon Chouinard is giving the company to a trust that will fight climate change.
Cabeza Patata also strives to operate ethically. They travel to different countries in their van, teaching kids graphic design and animation. For them, it’s all about giving back and mentoring young people, not turning a profit.
We were particularly moved by their story. For one, they didn’t start out as an incorporated business but after being involved in various creative projects and spending time together doing what they loved, Cabeza Patata was born. The founders created boundaries for saying “no” because they believed as an artist, your power is in deciding what you want and don’t want to do. These “no”s apply not only to others but also to themselves. Setting boundaries allows them to operate ethically as a business and ensure they’re taking care of their well-being.
3. Don’t Market at People, Connect With Them Through Culture
A major disconnect has formed between brands and the Gen Z audiences they’re targeting because marketing as a field is largely stuck in the past — at least according to Josefina Blattmann of the global agency, DEPT. She argued in her talk that too many companies are focusing on email marketing and paid media campaigns when they should be trying to connect through real cultural touchstones.
What does that look like in practice? Josefina proposed several specific strategies to bridge this gap, including:
- Being More Community-Centric: DEPT invites local artists to perform at events they organize, which not only brings the community together, but also raises awareness of the business. It’s a win-win!
- Connecting Digitally: Our culture is increasingly digital, so connecting through online channels is a no-brainer. Josefina took us through the highly successful Doja Cat x Taco Bell collaboration, which was literally a rap on TikTok about Taco Bell’s food that has generated nearly 40 million views.
- Partnering with Local Artists: DEPT invited local illustrators to draw the office for their Mar del Plata office opening, then placed the posters all around the city. This forged a real connection between their brand and the local community.
4. Use Your Community to Supercharge Your Creativity
In Tina Touli and Tasnim Bhuiyan’s Adobe x Bowie talk, we learned that Adobe did something similar to DEPT by connecting the community with the David Bowie toolkit. The toolkit featured stickers, brushstrokes, and patterns based on Bowie’s makeup and clothing, as well as an interactive 3D recreation of Bowie’s original dressing room.
Adobe placed the toolkit in the hands of their community, and they immediately got to work making original, beautiful art and sharing those amazing creations across the internet. Essentially, Adobe recognized that creativity is communal — and then turned around and provided their customers with the tools to freely explore their creativity and identities.
Differentiate Your Business With Thunderfoot
Even with strategies like these in your toolkit, standing out in a sea of digital sameness isn’t easy.
Thunderfoot can help! If your organization is struggling to stand out from the crowd, our team’s experience building memorable brand experiences to help companies connect with prospective buyers may be the missing ingredient.
Related: Three Obstacles to Building Your Thought Leadership (and How to Overcome Them)