Distinctiveness beats differentiation for Nix & Kix

The biggest kick I get in my job is seeing a brand strategy come to life in the marketplace with impact to drive distinctiveness. So, I was thrilled to bits when a special delivery of Nix & Kix’s beautiful new range arrived in the post. It got me thinking about how distinctiveness beats differentiation when it comes to building a brand with scale.

I was part of a team who worked on a re-launch positioning for this naturally refreshing drinks brand last year, along with founders Julia Kessler and Kerstin Robinson. They launched the brand in 2014 as an alternative to traditional sugary, over caffeinated, diet drinks on the one hand and bland water based drinks on the other. Their inspiring purpose was ‘to banish boredom and put some healthy excitement back into soft drinks.’ 

The brand had achieved some good success, but Julia and Kerstin believed it hadn’t yet reached its full potential. In this post I share some of the learning from the re-launch journey the team have taken.

Nix and Kix

1. Too much differentiation can be bad for you

From launch until last year, Nix and Kix used the quite challenging positioning of ‘discover the unexpected’. The product truth supporting this idea was the cayenne pepper ingredient. The pack dialled up the cayenne, with a symbol of a pepper and the message, “A little cayenne for a happy pick me up” (see below).

This positioning followed a strategy that many agencies still advise: drive clear differentiation in the marketplace. Now, a cayenne pepper-assisted pick me up was definitely different, but almost too different. Whilst a small group of people might love the idea, it was polarising and so limited the brand’s potential. Its an example that shows how differentiation is a recipe for niche appeal.

Nix & Kix old

2. Be relevant: match your brand truth with a human truth

Nix & Kix needed to boost relevance to broaden appeal, by matching a product truth with a human truth. Consumer insight showed that the real product experience was a naturally refreshing, fruity drink with the cayenne adding a little twist of distinctivenss; the experience was a tingle on the tongue, rather than a cayenne kick.

This product proposition tapped into a much bigger market, of people looking for a healthier alternative to carbonated soft drinks with more excitement than existing flavoured waters.

3. Make a creative leap

The Nix & Kix story shows the importance of finding the right creative team to add their magic dust. Smart brand strategy is the start-point to most brand growth stories. But the strategy is only as good as the execution and success requires a creative leap.

‘Fruity sparkle, spicey zing’ was used as a brand idea to summarise the positioning direction, as you can see in the post-its from the workshop below. And ‘zing’ turned out be the spark that ignited the creative expression which uses the line, “The drink with a zing’.


It’s exciting to see how the brand strategy has come to life in the mix. ‘Zing’ is used to communicate the product idea on the pack and in the social media tag #thedrinkwithazing . But it also brought to life in the tone of voice, which is upbeat, colourful and energetic. You can really see this in the website. Before (left), Julia and Kirsten had a nice product, as shown by a number of Great Taste awards. But now (right) it feels like they have a beautiful and distinctive brand.

Nix & Kix website

4. Develop distinctive assets

Distinctiveness is being driven in several ways to help the brand stand out. From a product ‘sausage’ standpoint, there is the little zing that adds a twist to the natural, healthier refreshment. Emotional ‘sizzle’ comes in the zingy tone of voice, including the bright orange colour and the little triangle visual device.

The brand logo has also been revamped (right), with a clever use of the “&” to unify the two parts of the brandname, replacing the previous use of “and” (left). This creates more of a proper, unified brand mark, as you can see in the pack shots below. Notice also how the pack leads with fruity refreshment, supported by the cayenne zing, instead of focusing on the red pepper as a visual device.

Nix & Kix packs

In conclusion, Nix & Kix shows how to move from a differentiation strategy to one based on distinctiveness, using smart strategy as the springboard for creative expression.

If you want to try Nix & Kix out for yourself this week and add a bit of zing to your first weekend of lockdown 2, head here to shop the brand!


To get some practical help to grow your core business, you can download our Core Growth Driver toolkit by using the form below. This walks you through the 8 core growth drivers we’ve used on consulting projects and in training for leading companies including Mars, Unilever, Mondelez and AB InBev.

We also offer a short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here. The course is only £95+VAT and is fully refunded if you go on to take the full Mastering Brand Growth program.

And for more insight on distinctiveness versus differentiation, see this earlier post.