Believing in the power of distinctive brands isn't a niche or emerging thought. According to a recent survey by The BrandGym, 100% of top CMOs agreed that distinctive brand assets drive brand growth. Similarly, research commissioned by Frontify revealed that during times of unprecedented uncertainty, CMOs prioritise brand distinctiveness (47%) as the most vital tool for building brand resilience.

The link between brand distinctiveness and ROI/growth is no longer up for debate. Ipsos, Kantar, System 1 and Ehrenberg-Bass have proof as long as their respective (and respected) arms to that effect. We also know from our study with Ipsos ‘Be Distinctive Everywhere’ that only 15% of all brand assets are truly distinctive, so logic says protect them if you’re lucky enough to have one. 

Of course, a distinctive brand goes beyond its assets. It encompasses its actions, impact on audiences, and its significance in culture. But it needs symbols that endure and have meaning imbued into them over time to carry all those things.

Sometimes things happen that make you question those facts, and with a recent rebrand I found myself doing just that. That rebrand was Johnson & Johnson. 

Credit: Johnson & Johnson

According to the company’s press release, “For more than 135 years, Johnson & Johnson has provided health care products and solutions to people worldwide. Now, with its exclusive focus on healthcare innovation and tackling the toughest health challenges, the company is updating its brand.”

At a macro level, they have done it to symbolise the shift from an institution that provides healthcare worldwide (via products and solutions) to one that provides healthcare worldwide (via innovation and tackling challenges). Doesn’t sound that seismic to me. Same purpose, different context.

Regardless, they believe the way to symbolise that change is to shift away from their 135-year-old word mark. In their own words, their new logo has been "modernized for this next chapter" and is designed to "show up in a more personable, contemporary way – especially in digital interfaces.”

Maybe a parallel from another category could provide guidance when it comes to imbuing a distinctive asset with new meaning, rather than creating a new asset to drive a new meaning.


Credit: Wikipedia via Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC/MOD

The institution of the British Government has had its fair share of ups and downs (to say the least). Through scandals, landslides, hope, despair, wars and peace, industrial and internet revolutions, booms to bust, swings from left to right, from ‘things can only get better’ to ‘things couldn’t possibly get any worse’. Yet amidst it all, one iconic feature has remained constant since 1735: the glossy black door of ​10 Downing Street

Why has no one ever questioned it or said, ‘We should get a different style of door, so people think we’re a different government?’ Think of all the brilliant minds, architects of social change, strategic giants, industry titans and Machiavellian spin doctors who have walked through that door, and yet none of them considered the idea of a sliding glass door symbolising a modern, transparent future.

Instead, politicians supposedly set about changing what they do in order to change people’s beliefs in the government of the day. And in doing so, they imbue this timeless, distinctive door with new meaning during their time at the helm of the institution. 

Should corporate branding take a similarly enduring view? Could Johnson & Johnson have achieved the same goals by retaining its most distinctive asset? We will never know, unless they change it back, but the door of 10 Downing Street suggests they could have. 

Sometimes you can change everything by changing nothing.