Coco Chanel, fashion's grand dame (and unexpected branding guru) once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”. It's simple – finding and delivering a clear point of difference is essential to commercial success. In the long term, great brands aren't built by fitting in with the competition.
So you've carved out a unique position in the market, found your target audience, understood their needs and worked out how to get them excited about your brand. Lucky you. But what next?
Branding convention says you should define and create a differentiated brand experience. Put a promise at the heart of your organisation and articulate it every time you interact with your customers – delivering it through product, service, experience, communications, culture and so on. In other words, be ‘consistently different'.
But, commercial reality says you should prioritise investment – resources don't grow on trees. Do you really need to spend your time and money on being distinct across the board?
Where to focus?
Google, arguably one of the biggest brands in the world, forged its fame through focusing on the distinctive qualities that define their products. From the intuitive mastery of its search to innovations in Street View, self-driving cars and wifi balloons for Project Loon, Google invests mammoth amounts in driving brand perception through product development. With these ‘moonshots', they prove their position as innovators who aren't afraid of a doing something different.
If you aren't a tech behemoth with catering budgets the size of Caribbean nation's GDPs then you'll probably be restricted to building your differentiation only where it'll make a real, tangible impact on your bottom line – this might just come down to how, not what you deliver.
Take Easyjet – belying its name, it isn't easy to make your product stand out in the world of budget airlines. Stripped-back, low-cost air travel doesn't provide many options beyond a slightly nicer microwave meal. But by tackling consumer's frustrations head on, Easyjet's recent transition from ‘cheap' to ‘cheap and cheerful' has been delivered, (pictured) creating a relevant and distinct brand experience.
By focusing on a differentiated service (including the re-introduction of allocated seats), and backing it up with effective communications, the results have been clear to see (profits and passenger numbers are up and in 2013 Easyjet's share price doubled in value). Best of all, it's managed the unthinkable and caused Ryanair to follow suit in attempting to be more ‘friendly'.
Use resources wisely
Proving your brand promise doesn't have to mean being ‘consistently different' in everything you do. It makes commercial sense to drive distinction only in the areas where your brand can make the biggest impact.
Take a lesson from some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world. First and foremost, Coca-Cola has created its distinction through communication, IBM through product, Virgin through service experience and Zappos through culture.
It comes down to business – allocating resources effectively by having a clear understanding of the role your brand can play in its commercial challenge. It pays to be smart about knowing where, and how, you can be truly different in your market.
Unless, of course, your budget is the size of Martinique's GDP. In which case please get in touch.