Is your brand different? If not, why will someone buy it?

 A brand has a special meaning when it is unique. By being unique, a brand is differentiated from others and is, therefore, more memorable. Consumers use the brand to assist them in distinguishing products and services. As such, if your brand does not communicate the difference you provide, the consumer will see little reason other than price to purchase it.

Many marketers tend to look at competitors and try to mimic the success a competitor has. When a brand is not differentiated, it does not own a unique position in the consumer’s mind. As such, it becomes difficult for a copy cat brand to earn the respect and a sale from the consumer.

It is not just copying a competitor that leads to lack of differentiation. Not clearly understanding the benefits that make your brand a better choice also leads to problems.
Clear differentiation is a primary reason that consumers choose a brand.

US retailer Sears has long struggled with this issue. Sales have suffered because consumers have been unable to determine why they should shop at Sears. Sears was, for many years, heralded as the company to go to for just about everything. However, with the proliferation of mass merchandisers, combined with the increased popularity of speciality stores, the capability to carry a number of products was no longer unique. Sears could not explain to customers why it was different, or why they should buy at Sears. So many consumers didn’t.
The world is filled with brands that have died because they were not different enough, not unique enough.

Izod, 7-Up and IBM personal computers are all brands that, over time, gave the consumer no reason to purchase them. Hush Puppies is a shoe brand that fell into the non-differentiated abyss in the US. It made products for everyone – men, women and children alike. It tried to claim a bit of comfort, but that was no different from any other shoe brand out there. There was no unique design. The was no flashy ornamentation. On the whole, it wasn’t “special”; they were not differentiated shoes. As such, its stateside sales were lacklustre.

For the many failures, there is an equal number of success stories.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car understands why it is unique. Whereas all other rental car companies base their business in airports, Enterprise scatters its locations through the community; focusing on customer service… “we pick you up”. Consumers understands this uniqueness, see value in this and have recognised it by renting from them.

An interesting category to consider is that of bottled water. The marketers try desperately to differentiate their bottled water from other bottled waters.
Importantly, they also differentiate their bottled water from tap water.

Consider Fiji Water, which is bottled at the Fiji Islands and is full of minerals. Compare that with Evian, which is natural spring water from the French Alps. The list goes on, and for each type of bottled water, there are small points of difference that are being made. Each seeks a relevant distinction to generate long-term sales and profits.

The video game machine market has been highly competitive, with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony jostling for the affections of gamers. Sony has been highly successful with its PlaySation franchise (PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3). Microsoft has put a lot of resources into its Xbox 360. Technological advances have led to increasingly involved and realistic gaming experiences. But those advances also brought games that were complicated for casual gamers to master.

Nintendo’s Wii became a big hit by moving in the opposite direction. Nintendo developed a simple, intuitive controller and easy-to-play games that attracted legions of consumers who would not normally be interested in video games.
Nintendo differentiated its Wii in a way that was highly appealing to an audience not well-served by Sony or Microsoft.

Have you ever walked with a child past a display of sweets? Talk about differentiation! Any four- or five-year-old can clearly explain to you why they love a Picnic but not Snickers. Why Cadbury’s Buttons are always their choice over Haribo. The benefits of a Flake over a Kit-Kat. There is no denying that these are all chocolate products. But the industry is famous for creating a unique difference in each of its brands, making that product special for its consumers, and seeing consistent growth as a result.
Identifying a point of differentiation is fundamental to building a brand, but it is difficult. Resist the urge to copy your competitor.

Instead, look for opportunities to be unique. What is the one, salient point that makes your brand unique? Can any of your competitors try to claim this point? Are you communicating this difference to your consumers? If your brand does not stand for something special, why should someone buy it?

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This chapter is part of Truth about brands review thus copyrighted to its authors.