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Rashi Goel

Points of parity, points of difference, Jeep’s success in America and Cooper Black font

Points of parity, points of difference, Jeep’s success in America and Cooper Black font
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Points of Parity/Points of Difference

My sister is terrified of dogs. Can’t bear to be with them.

When they enter the room, she runs to the other room.

But her kids really really really wanted a puppy.

She gave in.

The first puppy they had was Ellie.

She was a Bulldog.

She was a Bulldog.
this is Ellie

She grew to be a big dog.
My sister never got used to her.

Unfortunately, Ellie died and after a year or so, a second puppy was brought in.

The second puppy is Bella. A Shit-zhu.

The second puppy is Bella. A Shit-zhu.
This is Bella

Bella sleeps right next to my sister’s bed. My sister takes care of her like her third child. They spend every waking moment together.

What happened? How come my sister, who had a life long fear dogs, stuck to her pattern of being afraid with Ellie but melted when Bella entered the picture?

Because there was a point of difference between Bella and Ellie. Bella will not grow to be taller than a foot. She is a cute and tiny ball of soft cuddly fur. She is like a baby who needs to be taken care of. She stimulated my sister’s maternal instincts.

This was unexpected.

Even my sister was surprised. Sometimes lifelong habits change in a blink. While designing brand propositions, it is important for us to tick the boxes on points of parity – the non negotiables for a consumer, (like the demand for a puppy and nothing else).

But it is even more important to design the point of difference. The right point of difference could make the consumer fall in love with your product. Generally, points of difference bear deep emotional resonance and are laden with meaning, rich memories and deep desires – like the maternal instinct that bubbled up on the sight of Bella’s sweet face. 

Usually, even consumers cannot tell us what they desire. The smallest of things that hit the right note can have unexpected results. And this is what makes designing points of difference so difficult but also exciting .

Which brings me to the story of Jeep.

Jeep Wrangler

In the late 1990s, SUVs had taken share from the Jeep in the US. Point of difference for SUVs was that they were bigger, more luxurious and spacious. They were favored by families and soccer moms for in-city errands.

Jeep wanted to match SUVs on points of parity. They wanted to add permanent doors, have a shiny exterior, and plush soft leather seats.

That was wrong. What Jeep really needed was a refreshed point of difference.

They asked Clotaire Rapaille for help. 

When he delved into the cultural meaning of Jeep for Americans, he discovered that it stood for the experience of exploring the vast outdoor terrain, unbridled speed, and the freedom of feeling breeze in the hair.

In short, it stood for Horse.

The new point of difference borrowed codes from horses. Clotaire recommended rough leather seats like that of a saddle, removable doors, open top and round headlights, to mimic horses’ eyes.

The owners balked. But settled for Jeep with round headlights because round headlights were cheaper than rectangular. Sure enough, sales took off.


Jeep fan clubs popped up, that distributed T Shirts with slogans saying “Real Jeeps Have Round Headlights”.

Here is an advertisement from that time, which hits all the right notes to establish the point of difference.  (old ad so the quality is not great, but audio does the job).

Cooper Black

Speaking of points of difference. All fonts have shared parity. In that, all must be alphabets, numbers and punctuation marks. But each and every font has a point of difference in their design.

And sometimes that difference can drive adoption over decades.

One of the most successful and frequently used fonts of all time is Cooper Black. Its point of difference? Versatility. Versatility because of its rounded edges and bold face.

After World War II, the printing industry was moving to type faces molded out of metal.  Combined with a surge in demand for products post depression of 1919, the advertising industry was growing.

Veteran type designer Oswald Bruce Cooper was hired to create a font for advertising copy. He created Cooper Black, in 1922. 

Cooper Black was really a Times New Roman font, rounded with thick luscious curves. 

It was advertised with the slogan: “For far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers.”

Cooper Black

The rounded edges made it versatile because it was possible to expand the font into large posters and full page ads, and at the same time, to squeeze into narrow spaces in the newspaper.

The rounded space inside the letters gave a pleasant appearance which did not tire the eye.

rounded edges
rounded space made the font easy on the eye
rounded structure of the font

Cooper Black became The font of choice for the advertising industry at that time. It appeared on advertising, album covers and T-shirts. 

Simon and Garfield are quoted to have said this about the ‘curves’ in this font “the sort of font the oils in a lava lamp would form if smashed to the floor.”

In 1966 The Beach Boys released “Pet Sounds” featuring Cooper Black on the dust jacket. Overnight, it became the font for pop culture. Till date, this font carries nostalgia of the 1960s.

The Beach Boys released "Pet Sounds"
Cooper Black was used on music album covers

Apart from the Jeep example, points of difference seem to be powered by serendipity.

The question is. Can we ‘engineer’ serendipity? I will discuss this on 29th Dec 2020.