Branding the Product

There was no mistaking the black and red of Autohelm, the dark blue hull of a Sunseeker or the pale blue band linking the windows of a Swan.

All three have had their imitators, which just goes to show that their competitors also recognised the value of such bold branding cues in product and packaging design.

Indeed, there is evidence of a correlation between products’ fortunes and the periods when they were at their most visually distinct. A strong visual identity conveys and instils confidence. And, of course, it makes the product more visible, which accelerates the spread of awareness.

The more obvious the visual “tag”, the better, ideally something that encompasses across the whole product, such as a uniquely recognisable shape, in the way that a Mercedes, BMW or Jaguar was always easily identifiable (until recently), or an Apple computer, whereas the lesser brands are generally harder to tell apart.

A stand out colour scheme does the job equally well, like the fawn 1980s Beneteaus with their red, orange and yellow flashes, easily spotted amongst a sea of AWBs (average white boats).

The curious thing is that these visual differentiators often seem to weaken in economic slowdowns.

It’s as though brands become less bold, less confident of their points of difference, and less keen to stand out. Looking around at today’s boats, those distinctions once again seem quite subdued, even brand names and logo badges are hard to see in some cases. Maybe it’s a sign of the times.

But to those who are brave enough to stand out, it does present an interesting opportunity.

Robin Petherbridge