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5 Tips for Building a Successful Edgy Brand

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From Dsquared2's Fall/Winter Campaign

It’s true that an edgy brand can make a product much more memorable for consumers, but it’s also true that it’s easy for an edgy brand to go too far and alienate its intended customer base entirely. Naturally, there are factors that determine whether an edgy brand sinks or floats, and fortunately they’re all easy things to keep in mind. Whether your brand succeeds or not is up to your creativity and work ethic and no brand is 100% foolproof.

Thinking about the line between edginess and maliciousness, remembering not to pander, remaining confident, striving for authenticity and keeping quality in mind should put you well on your way to a brand that’s both prosperous and edgy.

Be Edgy, Not Nasty

There’s a distinctive difference between edgy branding and branding that is just plain mean, spiteful or offensive. An edgy brand will, by nature, turn a certain amount of people away while entrancing others. The goal is to win the audience you want, not to alienate most of the world. Good marketing for a specific product with a specific audience in mind will succeed without the needless degradation of people, be it entire groups or certain individuals. Targeting a specific or niche customer base is great, but it can be done without haphazard bridge burning and marginalizing people who might compose a future audience.

People in their late 20s and younger love a good amount of snark, but that doesn’t have to include outright nastiness. Edgy ideas will always make some people uncomfortable, which will obviously cause them to move away from your brand. Those people are lost to you but there’s no need to go after them with torches and pitchforks. The success of an edgy brand resides within those people who gravitate toward products that eschew the boring in favor of something a little different.

Don’t Pander

There is never any reason to reduce your brand to a guy dressed in a fat suit falling down the stairs. Everyone appreciates a good, cheap laugh but there are many laughs that are just far too cheap. Lowering your brand to appeal to the lowest common denominator embarrasses you and your core audience. Being edgy is all about pushing buttons, but in order to be successful you need to know which buttons to push. Understand your audience and push the right buttons. Don’t resort to fart jokes and talking animals unless you can firmly stand behind them with your head held high. Edgy brands should cause people to think, to converse and to remember. It is very possible to be edgy without being silly, offensive or pathetic. Hold yourself to a high standard.

Be Confident

Believe in what you’re doing, trust your instincts and stick by your decisions. Once you launch an edgy brand be prepared to fight for it. Commit to your brand and leave any trace of hesitation behind. This is not something you can crawl away from, this is a brand that you firmly believe in and plan to support with all of the resources at your disposal. Your skin needs to be thick because negativity’s coming.

The brand is the important thing to focus on, not the controversy it creates. An edgy brand will be polarizing, but if you’re fully on board with what you’re doing then the polarization will create dialogue and open new avenues to you. Your backbone needs to be strong. Once you commit to something edgy, backing down or sulking away with a scared look on your face will ruin all of your hard work more quickly than you can imagine. Step up and stand tall.


Be Authentic

Your brand is not just some marketing illusion cooked up by out-of-touch suits in a musty boardroom; it represents you and what you stand for. Whether your brand says that you’re fun and lighthearted, that you’re serious and vigilant or that you’re dark and mysterious depends totally on who you are. You’re different from everyone and everything else that has ever existed in this world and your brand is your opportunity to show that to the world.

A good brand is never pulled out of thin air; it represents important aspects of who you are and what you believe. People are complex, and your brand should represent something that’s never stagnant or two dimensional. You’re not going to win everyone over with an edgy brand, but if you’re sincere and authentic then the people that you do connect with will stay with you forever.

Be Outstanding

Your brand should have meaning and never be superficial. Your actual product, the brand and the people behind it should all be excellent. This is something you should be proud to talk about. As mentioned several times previously, this brand and this product has to be something that you believe in and are willing to put a part of yourself into. Controversy and distraction aren’t important at the end of the day; it’s the core message and the quality of the band that matter. Your audience can tell if your brand is a fake, manufactured abomination that you don’t care about. If you care about your brand and invest thought, emotion and energy into it then it will be outstanding. Just because it’s edgy doesn’t mean it can’t be a thoughtful, high quality brand.

All marketers and designers know that there are no absolutely magic brands or solutions. The key to success is keeping the fundamentals in mind while putting passion into everything you do. There might be some mistakes along the way, but if you build a ship that you absolutely love then you should be more than willing to sink with it if that time ever comes.

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