4 ways to differentiate your brand or business in 2017.
Most often we are told that as individuals, businesses and brands, we need to be DIFFERENT- to think and act differently- in order to cut through the wide array of communication clutters seeking for attention; in order to be seen as well as be heard.
I recently stumbled upon a book by Youngme Moon, a professor of Marketing at the Harvard Business School whose book Different : Escaping The Competitive Herd throws so much light on the issue of competition and how most times in trying to be different we end up being the same.
In trying to be different most of us look to others- either our contemporaries or competitors -for validation. We look at what they do to determine what we should do. As business owners we are often told to analyze the activities of our competitors so we could determine how high or low, how fast or slow we would like our business to go and yet we all want our businesses to offer a different value that will place us at a more competitive advantage. Youngme asserts that the more brands try to be competitive the more they end up in a ‘herd mentality’ trap. For instance in the beauty industry there are over a hundred different brands all hoping to gain the customers’ attention and patronage, in such market where loyalty to a particular brand seems tough, it becomes more difficult for consumers to make a choice since almost all brands offer the same value -at least in the minds of the consumers. Except one tends to be a brand loyalist, connoisseur or aficionado, it usually difficult to spot the difference between one brand from another in a category.
Hence in order to break away from the crowd and gain competitive advantage, individuals, businesses and brands should consistently:
1.Carry out Self Evaluation: The need for evaluation and analysis is paramount as understanding the strengths and weaknesses and where more focus should be placed makes it easier to stand out. Knowing your Unique selling proposition (USPs) and leveraging on them is key, that is, focusing more on maximizing our strengths than focusing on improving our weaknesses. For instance the Volvo brand is positioned as a car for safety and people who consider that as a priority will go for the brand whereas those who are more into luxury may not consider the brand. If based on this and in order to improve on this “weakness” Volvo decides to make a more flashy and luxurious car, this would be deviating its original brand promise of safety (strength) and eventually may lose customers.
2.Do The Things Your Competitors Aren’t – In an industry where adding more features to a product is the norm, you may decide to withhold features that the rest of industry considers necessary but indulge your customers with features others don’t have and aren’t expecting.
3.Break Away From the Usual– Business owners should think outside the box. In as much as they offer the same products or services they can replace one way of doing things with another. For instance Swatch, the watch manufacturing company decided to change the usage of watches from being a high end luxury item to becoming and everyday accessory. The greatest benefit is that when consumers are presented with the products for the first time, they understand what it is about even though it is different.
4.Challenging your customers: Although the usual notion is that customers are right and they are king, but overtime, they tend not to take certain special treatments as special, but as a norm. Businesses could go against this. A company like IKEA furniture company does this. Customers who go to the IKEA stores for furniture usually shop at a store with an array of quality furniture but are left to assemble on their own. Although these company’s strategy maybe frowned upon, this is what differentiates them from the rest of the stores.
Be at alert, competition is stiffer. A famous says if you do the same thing and expect a different result, that is insanity. (no be me talk am o). In these times, businesses must find ways to break the usual pattern and gain consumers attention. There is an ever increasing need for outstanding differentiation that will not be easily imitated. So tell us, how will you apply this? Ideas? What have you done that worked? Let’s share.
Anita is a recent marketing graduate from University of Uyo. She is a budding entrepreneur, a rising writer and a volunteer on Mrsceonaija. She loves learning, marketing and impacting her society.