Brand Awareness

Branding Blog

Achieving Brand Differentiation

If properly designed, brands should promise relevant differentiated benefits to their target customers. Carefully choosing the most powerful benefits will not only result in brand preference, but brand insistence.  That is, the brand will be perceived to be the only viable solution for the customer’s need.  Put another way, the customer will not pursue substitutes if the brand is not available.  The brand establishes a consideration set of one.

The optimal benefits for a brand to claim are those that are:

(1) very important to the target customer
(2) supported by organizational strengths
(3) not being addressed by the competition

Ideally, the brand tries to ‘own’ only one or two key benefits, as that is all a customer will remember. The benefits should be understandable, believable, unique and compelling.

A brand’s promise can be stated as follows:

•Only [brand] delivers [unique differentiating benefit] to [target customer].

Following are the most common sources of brand differentiation [unique differentiating benefits]:

•The brand stands for something important to the customer
oIts values align with the customer’s values
oIt reinforces the customer’s self image or how the customer aspires to be perceived
oIt can serve as a ‘badge’ or other form of self-expression
•It possesses admirable qualities
•It provides unique or superior customer service
•It delivers a unique product purchase or usage experience
•It is entertaining
•It delivers superior performance
•It is venerated, has heritage (continuity, trustworthy leader, since …)
•It is the technology leader
•It has noble aims/values
•It tells an engaging story about itself
•Its founder has unique, admirable qualities
•It was first — a pioneer — in its market

It is the most popular brand with the most customers or the largest market share
•It is the category innovator
•It is perceived to possess positive momentum
•It is the ‘next’ big thing, using ‘next generation’ technology
•It is the most convenient or easy to find and use
•It focuses on a particular customer segment and has become an expert in meeting that segment’s needs
•It comes from a country or region that is known for its excellence in the brand’s product category
•It is the leading expert/specialist in a particular area
•It is the choice of experts
•It delivers the best overall value for the price
•Its products are crafted with great care by hand
•Its products are completely natural/organic with no artificial additives
•Its products have a unique, unrivalled styling/packaging
•It is quintessential – it defines its category

The brand promise should be reinforced with proof points to substantiate its claim, that is, to make it believable. The following are the most common types of proof points or ‘reasons to believe’:

•Expert endorsements
•Top ratings by independent authorities
•Industry analyst reports
•Third party certifications
•‘Blue chip’ customer list
•What 9 out of 10 experts prefer/use
•Customer testimonials
•Leadership in any of the following:
oNumber of customers
oNumber of locations
oNumber of transactions
oOverall sales
oMarket share
•Side by side tests with competitive brands
•Looks/feels/performs different(ly)
•Before and after comparisons
•Year of founding (since…)
•Patented technology
•Secret/magic ingredients
•Superior ingredients
•Ingredient brands
•Unique process
•Extensive publicity
•Unconditional, money-back guarantee

I often hear people say ‘our product is a commodity’ or ‘price is all that matters in our category’ or ‘all of the viable positions in our market have been taken.’  Don’t let anyone convince you that your brand can not be differentiated.  After all, chicken, bananas, vodka and even water have been differentiated.

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