Anything can be differentiated.
Part of the trick is to create your difference, and use that difference to drive your benefit message. Use your difference to set up your unique value proposition. In a crowded category, differences usually need to be dramatic, simple and easy to grasp.
Even if that means oversimplifying your message, distill your difference to one attribute. Marty Neumeir refers to this as “onlyness” in The Brand Flip (another great resource on branding education!)
Do not try to tell the whole story.
Focus less on communicating the attributes your competitors can claim and more on what they cannot claim that you can. Focus on one differentiating idea that you can drive home, again and again. The most effective attributes are simple and focused on customer benefit, regardless of how complex the product or market is.
EXAMPLE: Visa’s share of the credit card market shot up more than 50% after taking ownership of the word “everywhere” in their “Visa is everywhere” campaign. Volvo owns safety. FedEx owns overnight delivery. Zippo owns windproof lighter.
Let naysayers fall to the side.
Some people will not like your distinctive new brand, your product, or you. Be prepared for it. It comes with the territory. People are always suspicious of the new, the different, the revolutionary, the maverick, the big thinker. This is one of the main reasons big companies shy away from creating distinctive products and building distinctive brand identities. But guess what? No brand is universally loved by everybody. If you stand out, you will be criticized. But criticism does not equate to failure.
Being safe is risky.
Being boring is risky. In today’s crowded market, it is hard to survive if you do not stand out. Being scrutinized, even criticized, is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Being invisible is the worst.
Some organizations believe that differentiated branding takes courage. The irony is, it takes courage to launch an undifferentiated brand. You are pitching a brand out into the marketplace with your fingers crossed, hoping no one will notice there is no difference between you and the competitor, and you can piggyback off their audience.
These days, many companies are conserving capital, playing it safe, eliminating risk every way they can. Guess what this means? That’s right. It is a great time to innovate. Create a new brand category. That is how you beat the market leaders.
Want more insights like these to help you design a successful, powerful brand? Grab your copy of Authentic Branding: How to Inspire Each Customer’s Mind and Heart by Howard Lim.