After years of experience as the “disruptive branding agency,” we’ve learned a few things about what it means to stand out. It’s not always a matter of being the loudest or flashiest (in fact, it generally isn’t). It’s about focus.
Focus is how you avoid scaring away customers by over-explaining your offering. It helps every member of your team talk about your brand’s unique value in the same compelling way. Brands with focus know what makes them different, and use it to tell a story that sticks.
Read on for a practical guide to identify what gap your brand fills, and how to use your differences to your advantage.
Every solid strategy starts with research. You’ve probably spent a good amount of time vetting your competition. But to effectively differentiate your brand, it helps to know what to look for.
The most obvious way to differentiate is by offering something your competitors don’t. Take a look at their product/service lineup and identify places where you differ.
Even if your baseline offering is the same, perhaps you have a signature process or method that you could leverage as a differentiator.
Now that you’re familiar with your competitors’ offerings, observe how they speak about them. Who are they trying to appeal to? What benefits are they emphasizing?
If all your competitors are pitching the same thing in the same way, you’re perfectly positioned to do something different. But be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There might be a reason why these same selling points are popping up all over the place.
This is where it helps to understand your audience. Identify what matters to them, and how you’re uniquely suited to help meet their goals.
Now take a look at their brand’s design. What colors do they use? How would you describe their design style?
Now take a look at each competitor’s brand identity. Are they all working off of slight variations of the same color palette? The same monotonous tone and key value propositions?
Notice how their visual and verbal style, or lack thereof, helps paint the picture of what it would be like to do business with them. Take note of what inspires you, elements you want to steer clear of, and most importantly, the common themes.
With messaging and design in mind, how would you describe the look and feel of each competitor’s brand in 5 words?
Maybe they all have a similar personality, or no personality at all. If it’s the latter, you have a massive opportunity to win with a delightful and memorable brand.
Now that we’re well acquainted with the competition, let’s get clear on why you’re here in the first place. Strip away all the industry jargon and marketing fluff. What are you here to accomplish besides making money? How do you do it? Why do you do it?
Think of it this way. We’re consuming more than ever before. Between scrolling TikTok and tuning into our favorite shows, there’s an infinite number of advertisements in front of us at any given moment. Not to mention, most of them are precisely targeted toward our interests and buying behaviors.
Why should your customers choose you over the handful of businesses at their fingertips who do the same thing – perhaps for less cost?
The more competitive your category, the more critical a differentiation strategy is to your brand’s survival. Your value should be scroll-stopping and abundantly clear.
So keep it simple.
Write a list of 10+ statements according to the following format:
Our [BRAND] is the only [CATEGORY/INDUSTRY] that [UNIQUE BENEFIT].
Realistically, you aren’t the only one in your industry that cares about its customers. So get creative! Think beyond your products & services themselves and explore how you deliver them.
Maybe you’re the only company in your category who offers your services digitally instead of in person. Who takes client meetings on the hiking trail instead of the boardroom. Who has an annual pasta-making competition.
If you’re having a time pinpointing some concrete differentiators, it helps to get metaphorical. If your brand was a car, a dessert, or a celebrity, who would it be and why? What does this tell you about your brand?
These seemingly silly questions uncover your brand’s differentiators in action. They give substance to your brand’s personality, which helps your customers relate to the people behind the purpose.
A strong sense of self is how you attract the perfect audience, instead of selling to a generic one.
Once you have a clear understanding of what makes you one-of-a-kind, it’s time to put it to work.
Imagine your brand was a person. What would be the first 5 words you’d want people to use to describe them? How does the person you imagine in your head look and sound?
Consider how this could translate to your brand’s design and messaging.
Maybe a warm color palette is just the thing to spice up your industry’s cold, clinical hues. An illustrative visual system to bring a sense of humanity to your cut-and-dry B2B business. A voice and tone to merge your serious message with a lighthearted, approachable style. Whatever your differentiator is, run with it.
Your brand should carry your story across every single touchpoint, showing your consumers who you are and why you’re different.
This consistency builds trust, which creates loyal customers and deeper relationships.
No matter how unique we may be, we’re all humans looking for connection. From D2C to B2B, the most disruptive brands treat customers like humans and focus on building a presence real people can relate to. Because people don’t connect with brands. They connect with people.
Get focused on what gives your brand its heartbeat with a little help from our Brand Thinkbook.
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