14 Jun 2024 23:21

Advertising & Marketing

Why brands need to start different then grow strong

What if told you there was a magic quality that would tell you whether your brand was destined to be successful or not? You probably would not believe me, right? But there is such a quality and it precisely the one that so many people want to downplay. That quality is the ability for a brand to be seen as different.

Yes, I hate to sound like a broken record, but here I am again blogging about why marketers should do everything they can to be perceived as different. My return to this subject was prompted by a little exchange related to this post on LinkedIn.

Shann Biglione commented,

“We can debate the definition of branding, but product features are still the greatest drivers of differentiation. Two completely identical products with different branding will struggle to be seen as truly “different”, and will inevitably lead to consumers happily considering both. That’s, I believe, what’s happening to the iPhone right now for example.”

So here is my take on Shann’s comment. Basically, it is true, but only because marketers often fail to do everything they can to make consumers unhappy about considering both brands.

If we looked back in time to 2007 the iPhone was incredibly well-differentiated in the eyes of potential consumers (as measured in BrandZ). Even though many people had yet to recognize why that difference was meaningful on a personal basis, the iPhone disrupted the category. However, innovation needs to be more than a one hit wonder and it is tough to make continued innovation truly meaningful.

There are many disruptive brands that share the same profile of the iPhone had when it launched: I LOHAS was designed to appeal to eco-conscious Japanese consumers and rapidly became brand leader, Netflix completely sidelined Blockbuster, Dyson commands a huge premium in home appliances, Nespresso does similarly in the home coffee market and Tesla is giving the premium car brands a run for their money.

Obviously it is more than just being different. A brand’s difference has to have the potential to be meaningful to people; to deliver against their needs in a new and better way, one that people can readily appreciate. And therein lies the challenge. Functional advantage is difficult to sustain, gaining emotional advantage may not be easy but it is more sustainable. What brands really need to do is take their difference and make it as meaningful and salient as possible, so that when the right occasion comes along the brand is the obvious choice, no other one will do.

All this said, the iPhone is still far more likely to be seen as different than Samsung and sells at a premium, so I guess that initial functional advantage is not so quick to erode after all. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 


Authored by Nigel Hollis 

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