Does your brand own a distinct place in consumers’ minds that is truly meaningful to them? Brand strategy is all about how you differentiate and position your brand in the market. Great brand strategy revolves around clearly articulating your differentiation against competitors.
Differentiation gives brands their competitive edge. Brands lacking differentiation or a competitive advantage make it easy for consumers to leave because they can easily find the same thing or better elsewhere. Brands able to deliver a unique and differentiated value proposition can overcome inertia and render the competition irrelevant.
Unfortunately, too many brand strategies today still fall back on simple, dime-a-dozen differentiators like price and service. Brand differentiation is more important now than ever before. Standing out from the sea of sameness in your category requires that your brand be different. You can’t just be better than your competitors—you must be different.
In a saturated market, how does a brand prove its worth over its competitors?
Brands must find a shared value with their customers to differentiate themselves. They have to ask themselves: What do we stand for? Is it the same thing that our customers stand for?
Branding is about a promise you make to your customers that no one else is making, even if you do or sell the same thing. For companies with unique products and technologies or processes, the difference lies in what they do or how they do it. But powerful brands can be built even when there are no fundamental differentiators. The key is to identify and communicate a meaningful promise to your customers—a promise based on market needs and decision drivers that resonate on emotional as well as rational levels.
Don’t just talk the talk
Branding is all about creating the right perceptions in consumers’ minds. If you want to build a strong brand, you have to focus on being different. But your difference must be meaningful and make a difference. Brands that rely on differentiators like price and service will fail in the long run because:
- Any brand can undercut your prices at any time
- Every brand proclaims exceptional service, but few deliver—consumers know this and ignore these claims
Take a lesson from Apple
Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple was to design a premier product and charge a premium price. Product differentiation, innovative advertising, and hype around the launch of new products gave the company power over pricing. Apple succeeded in creating demand for its products and ensured brand loyalty.
One of the most successful drivers of Apple’s strategy is the creation of their own ‘ecosystem.’ The Apple line is designed to integrate with other Apple products, seamlessly sharing media across devices. This ecosystem provides users with the ability to share their media files from their iPad to their iPhone to their PC or Apple TV. Leaving the ecosystem is not only costly, it’s also cumbersome to assimilate the same ease of use.
Apple’s success demonstrates that people will pay a premium for unique products and services that offer significant differences. Good branding means you ask a fair price for your product and services, and that you communicate to consumers the value suppositions that prove you deserve to get that price.
Find a key differentiator that is meaningful, important, and influential to your target consumer audience and then own that differentiator within your market. It’s not easy to do and requires a great deal of market research and analysis. If you lack skills and expertise in this area, hire a brand consultancy to help you. Differentiate your brand as Apple did, through innovation, superior customer service, and marketing and advertising campaigns that engage consumers’ emotions.