There is more to attracting customers than simply being the best. When it comes to building a brand, being different is more important than being better. Brand differentiation is what separates you from the competitive pack in the sea of sameness that swirls around your customers and prospects 24/7/365.
Take the (sometimes controversial) battle of the world’s top 50 restaurants. In order to even be considered a top 50 restaurant, they have to consistently achieve an exceptionally high standard of food and service. That’s the price of entry. But they also have to focus on doing something different – something that defies comparison. Whether its pioneering molecular gastronomy, sourcing and foraging local ingredients, or designing a dining experience like no other – they have an unrelenting focus on not only being the best but also distinguishing themselves from all others. They offer something unique to their customers. It’s what sets them apart from others and attracts diners to travel great distances to experience their culinary feats.
What does being different really mean for a brand?
Being different refers to the distinctiveness of a brand. A brand that is different stands out from the competition and offers something unique or innovative that cannot be found elsewhere. This can be in the form of a unique product or service, a unique business model or approach, or a distinctive brand personality or aesthetic. It could also be a different approach to solving a problem or meeting a need. Being different allows your business to differentiate itself from the competition and attract customers who are looking for something different or special – something that speaks uniquely to them.
Brands such as Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club both offered something different to breakthrough in already well established markets with dominant market leaders:
- Warby Parker created a new, disruptive business model for fashionable, quality glasses at an affordable price without having to go to a physical store and a free try-before-you-buy program.
- The Dollar Shave Club created a distinctive brand personality to set themselves apart from the competition by connecting and engaging with their customers and consumers at large through clever content and storytelling.
Warning: Don’t be different just for the sake of being different.
While being different can be an effective way to attract and retain customers, it also has to be authentic. Consumers can easily see through insincere attempts at differentiation, and it can damage a brand's reputation if it is perceived as phony. A brand needs to be intentional about their difference and clear about what gap or need it’s filling for customers.
Being ‘better’ is a slippery slope.
Being better is about the quality or superiority of a product or service. You may offer a higher quality product, better performance, more features, greater value for money or any other aspect that is important to customers – but it’s not enough. Being “better” is a key factor in a brand's success, but it’s not the winning factor. Why?
Because being better is slippery territory. It lives in the territory of comparison and one-upmanship.
Why is being different better than being better?
In a crowded market, it can be difficult for a brand to stand out and get noticed. Being different is a pattern interrupt. It helps you get the attention of potential customers for a few extra precious seconds. Being different also helps to build customer loyalty. When a brand offers something unique, it creates a sense of exclusivity and appeals to a specific group of consumers. These consumers are more likely to become loyal brand advocates and help to spread the word about the brand to friends and colleagues.
How can a brand effectively differentiate itself from the competition?
In order to be both different and better, carefully consider your target market and what your prospects are looking for. This means conducting market research to understand the needs and preferences of your potential customers, and using this information to inform product development and marketing efforts.
It is also important for you to stay up-to-date on industry trends and emerging technologies in order to continuously improve and stay ahead of the competition. This could involve investing in research and development, implementing new production processes, or adopting new marketing strategies and tactics. Maintaining your competitive edge relies on your ability to adapt and adjust as needed.
Here are a few specific strategies to consider for establishing a clear brand differentiation from the competition:
- Offer a unique product or service: One of the most effective ways to differentiate a brand is to offer a product or service that cannot be found elsewhere. This could be a new and innovative product, or it could be an existing product that is reimagined in a unique way.
- Develop a distinctive brand personality: A brand's personality is the emotional and psychological characteristics that are associated with it. By developing a distinctive brand personality, a brand can differentiate itself from the competition and appeal to a specific group of consumers.
- Focus on customer experience: In today's competitive market, the customer experience can be a key differentiator. By offering excellent customer service, a seamless and convenient customer journey, and other added value services, a brand can differentiate itself from the competition and build customer loyalty.
- Use a different marketing approach: Another way to differentiate a brand is to use a unique or unconventional marketing approach. This could be through the use of unexpected or unconventional channels, or by creating a marketing campaign that stands out from the competition.
- Emphasize the brand's values and mission: Consumers today are increasingly looking for brands that align with their values and beliefs. By emphasizing the brand's values and mission, a brand can differentiate itself from the competition and appeal to a specific group of consumers.
The Bottom Line
Dare to stand out from the competition. By standing out from the competition and offering something unique, you'll create a sense of exclusivity and appeal to a specific group of consumers. Who knows who originally said it, but there’s riches in the niches. Offering something unique to a unique set of customers will ultimately lead to increased customer loyalty and a stronger brand overall. Learn more about brand positioning, including how to differentiate your brand.