The 4 Distinct Brand Flavors

(and how to use them to create an irresistible brand)

Remember when you were a kid, learning about the 4 basic flavors – sweet, salty, bitter, and sour? Everything you ate fell into one of these 4 categories – and you could tell them apart almost instantly?

Now, it’s years later and you’re building a brand… a brand that’s uniquely yours and has its own distinct flavor.

Maybe you’re overwhelmed at all the branding options you have. Maybe you’re not quite sure what you want your customers to experience and take away from your brand.

(And let’s not kid ourselves – *that* is real branding. It’s not a logo or set of colors. It’s that feeling you want your customer to walk away with. Read more about this in my article, “5 Logo Mistakes that Hurt Coaching and Consulting Businesses.”)

I believe there are 4 distinct brand flavors, and you can emphasize any one of these:

#1: Shock

Shock brands can either be controversial or super-bold. Think Howard Stern. A shock brand is usually in your face, and might not shy away from cussing. A lot. Or they may never use profanity, but embrace controversy – or a controversial point of view – to create a result. (“There’s no such thing as bad PR” is true for these brands.)

Benetton, the clothing line, didn’t start out that way, but they’ve become known for controversial, shocking advertising.

Some shock brands combine shock and humor – it’s a powerful combination, but hard to pull off.

#2: Humor

Humor brands are usually pretty obvious. Poo-Pourri is a humor brand. These brands are built on making you chuckle, or laugh out loud.

But there’s another use for humor in brands. Humor’s a great way to inject personality into a brand that’s not otherwise humorous. For example, a lot of companies do this with their social media accounts. Think Wendy’s witty responses to their competitors, like this one:

Or Moon Pie’s Twitter response to Hostess Golden CupCakes being the official snack cake of the solar eclipse last year. “Lol ok,” was all they said.

#3:  Safety

Safety brands are usually the “Aw shucks,” mom-and-pop brands. Their vibe is a, “We’re just like you, we’re perfectly safe.”

Walmart, (despite any feelings you have about them now) started as a safety brand, telling the story of how Sam Walton started the retailer for everyday people to buy household products and save money. That’s a safety story. Insurance agencies and financial institutions often have safety brands.

#4:  Excellence

Excellence brands can be positioned a couple of ways. They can either be the elite, high priced, “I give you the best.” (Think Tiffany’s.) Or an excellence brand can mean innovation and cutting edge. (Think Apple and Tesla.)


So if you’re struggling with your brand, think of these 4 brand types as a framework. Which of the 4 speaks to you (and the work you’re doing) most? Are you able to decide on one of these flavors to be your cornerstone and identify ways to integrate a secondary one that speaks to you, like Wendy’s with their social media? (Having a second flavor makes it that much more interesting!) 🙂

You don’t have to limit yourself to the ‘obvious’ choice, either. It might be obvious that someone with an offering of “I help you lower stress” would choose a safe-flavored brand. However, you could lower stress with humor, or excellence (or even shock to create a pattern-interrupt).

You just don’t want to try to incorporate all of the brand flavors at once. Can you imagine how disgusting it would be if you put sweet, salty, bitter, AND sour on your fork at the same time and ate it? Yuck! That’s exactly what you DON’T want to leave your audience feeling – a mish-mash of everything you’re trying to stuff into your brand.

Choose your key branding element – your primary brand flavor – and stay true to it.

Want to learn more about setting yourself apart and finding the hidden client attractors in your brand? Click here!