A brand quirk is a feature or attribute that does nothing to enhance the performance of the product or service, but provides a unique point of differentiation.
Some of the most notable examples appear in the confectionery or countline sectors. There are very few real differentiators between chocolate bars, few notable differences you can make. The most we can manipulate are marginal variations around a few popular themes.
Consider the shape of the ‘Toblerone’ bar. It has no effect on the taste of the product, provides no enhancement in itself – but it is a quirk or huge value in brand identity and differentiation.
The round Smarties tube is another quirk. It provides no tangible benefit. In fact, I heard a well-reasoned argument from a packaging specialist that a rectangular tube makes far more sense, providing better space occupancy in transit. I understand it was even tried once, but for the public, the round tube is part of the Smartie offer.
The hole in a Polo mint or a Lifesaver has no flavour enhancing property – it is a quirk – but of inestimable brand value.
Quirks are as important as brand assets as are brand names, logos, colour schemes and all the other identity collateral.
Though we understand their value, quirks are among the most difficult things to create successfully. They are often serendipitous, springing from creative irrelevancies and often coming from unlikely quarters within the organisation.
Consciously creating a valuable quirk is as difficult as creating a video that is ‘guaranteed’ to go viral.
If you have a brand that is clearly differentiated in terms of the benefits it delivers, you should concentrate on communicating them. If not, a quirk may help. There is no handbook to creating a killer quirk, but I suspect that the necessary conditions include an organisation that loves and believes in its product or service, that creates a truly innovative environment and has people with a sense of fun and playfulness.