Brand Differentiation: A Strategic Method to Brand Success
Does your brand have what it takes to stand out from the crowd? Give your business a boost by implementing brand differentiation. Find out how.
Brands that stand out often make the sale. And while there are many ways to pique the interest of your audience, one tried-and-tested method you can use is brand differentiation.
What Is Brand Differentiation?
Brand differentiation is when a business integrates attributes to its products or services that make them stand out. It could be something as simple as a tangible branding element or a unique brand message
An example would be Tic Tac's highly recognizable and sustainable packaging that also makes the iconic 'tic tac' sound when the lid is opened or closed. Or how about brands that adopt trends geared towards healthy ingredients or materials to differentiate themselves from the mainstream?
And if you're wondering, brand differentiation works! The technique can change where your brand stands in the market and has brought big names to the global market. For example, we have Nike, Ikea, Apple, and Coca-cola that are at the forefront of their respective industries.
But it's not easy to differentiate your brand, so what strategies can you apply?
3 Strategic Types of Brand Differentiation
Learning the ropes of key brand differentiation strategies can help you achieve your branding goals, namely:
- Product differentiation;
- Service differentiation, and;
- Channel differentiation.
1. Product Differentiation Strategy
A product differentiation strategy focuses on iterating features buyers can significantly benefit from. It includes offering higher price points, producing higher quality products, and allowing product customization.
Some product differentiation examples are Samsung, annually providing a flagship model with high-end features vis-a-vis a premium price tier, and Nike's use of AI technology, allowing buyers to customize and try on their shoes via augmented reality on the go.
If you opt to differentiate your brand through your product, think long-term. Focus on what product aspects to iterate that address a highly-relevant need of your target audience and further nurture connection.
2. Service Differentiation Strategy
Sometimes, the quality of service your brand provides can impact the overall customer experience and business performance. The leading e-commerce company Amazon successfully disrupted the digital landscape through a service differentiation strategy with its One Day Delivery and 1-Click Checkout. In a nutshell, Amazon took online shopping convenience to the next level.
As you can infer, integrating service differentiation results in trust building which can elicit customer loyalty. When established, a brand can accurately and confidently expand its services without customers second-guessing if they are worth the price.
Pro tip: Make customer data your best friend. For example, your brand should periodically gather customer feedback, collaborate closely with your customer-facing team, and recalibrate your strategy accordingly for more outstanding customer service.
3. Channel Differentiation Strategy
Since digitalization swept the globe, there has been a rise in omnichannel buyers. In response, businesses across industries are blurring the line between their brick 'n mortar and ecommerce sites, ensuring they offer a seamless brand experience to their market.
Brands are also getting creative by launching products and services exclusive to buyers on specific channels at a special price. However, it is best to not spread yourself too thin. Instead, create a highly targeted channel distribution strategy to minimize risk and optimize results.
Tactics For A Successful Brand Differentiation
Leverage Your Unique Selling Proposition
Knowing your unique selling proposition or USP is arguably one of the biggest hurdles businesses face. It gets even tougher for a startup with limited resources to compete in an already saturated space. However, your USP is crucial to determining the right brand differentiation strategy, which can also help you command a higher price and become a brand leader in your niche. It also gatekeeps brands wanting to copy you.
When defining your USP, it should address the following:
- What specific problem are you solving for your customers through your product/services?
- What can you bring to the table that others cannot?
- Does your USP align with your company’s vision, mission, and brand promise?
Take the canned fish industry, for example. Often, you'll see a caricature of burly fishermen hard at work printed on the tin. Back then, the 'easier' task of selling the fish are left to the fishwives or daughters waiting for the day's catch. Fishwife, a female-led canned fish brand, took the opportunity to give a new meaning to the term by championing women working behind the scenes as they strive to source and sell ethically-sourced tinned seafood to its consumers.
Such clearly defined USP makes the brand stand out and resonates well with its niche that shares the same brand values and message.
Create a Deeper Customer Experience Through Emotional Branding
Have you ever seen an ad that made you laugh or cry? Without realizing it, the compelling brand is forever etched in your mind. That's what emotional branding can do.
Instead of simply discontinuing Volkswagen's Beetle until forgotten, the brand took the opportunity to do a proper farewell. It released a heartwarming ad as it bids goodbye to the iconic car model, giving thanks to the many people who trusted them. The campaign triggered happy memories from viewers who shared some of their fond stories and milestones online. This strong emotional connection between Volkswagen and its loyal customers is why it remains a distinguished car brand.
Truly, emotional branding is not just an effective brand differentiator, but when done consistently and strategically, it becomes a powerful technique to nurture meaningful relationships with your customers.
Make a Mark with Brand Personalization
Remember when Coca-Cola launched its Share a Coke campaign, putting up vending machines that print names on their canned products when you make a purchase?
The tactic may seem simple, like having your name written on your coffee cup when placing your order at your favorite cafe. But Coca-cola is among the top brand product differentiation examples that managed to meld its brand message of sharing happiness by allowing customers to personalize their favorite Coke products and gift them to others.
Such is the power of brand personalization that can build strong brand perceptions. Take advantage of different digital tools, like creating branded TikTok filters and building a mobile app that lets customers personalize their orders, for example. Or you can also utilize branded personality quizzes so consumers learn more about themselves while allowing you to make product suggestions based on their results. What a fun way to sell!
Collaborate With Other Brands For A Stronger Impact
As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. Well, why not bridge the gap in your products and services by partnering or collaborating with other brands?
Brand collaboration is a strategic move that comes with multiple advantages:
- Market expansion
- Shared resources and expertise
- Opportunity to create a unique and innovative product or service
Through cross-branding, the complementary attributes of brand partners can significantly elevate each other’s distinctiveness. When looking for a brand partner, you should have a similar strategic goal that targets different pain points or areas of opportunity.
During the early years of Spotify, the music streaming app partnered with Starbucks because of the overlap in their brand goals. Starbucks is the go-to cafe for its cozy ambiance and delicious coffee, while Spotify would love for people to listen to good music on the go. Through the partnership, Spotify gave premium memberships to Starbucks employees so they can ditch the CDs and conveniently play curated playlists anytime based on Starbucks’ music preference.
Key Challenges of Brand Differentiation
Keeping On-Brand and On-Trend Branding is a long game where results are never instant. There’s also the ever-changing landscape as tech progresses and customer behavior alters over time.
The best way to counter this and keep from veering away from your main goal is to constantly update yourself on the latest trends and analyze which on-brand strategies you can adopt. As they say, knowledge is power, and your best source of vital data comes from your consumers. Take advantage of customer feedback, data analysis, and insights from digital channels via social listening tools.
Maintaining Consistency Across All Brand Touchpoints
Keeping your presence in multiple channels consistent is a daunting task, especially for startups and small businesses. You’ll have to think about how you can creatively deliver your brand design, brand strategy, identity, and message in different formats.
For starters, you’ll need a nifty tool called a brand guideline. A brand guideline serves as your holy bible, containing the very framework of your brand. Think visual design, brand tone and voice, imagery, etc. It should encompass how you will present your brand on all channels or touchpoints—whether online or offline.
It is also crucial to iterate your guideline while maintaining core branding elements identifiable by your consumers. Luckily, you can always count on brand design services experts to ease your worries.
Managing Multiple Brands All At Once
It is hard to predict how your company will grow over time. Some businesses find themselves running multiple sub-brands that are redundant, offering little to no distinction.
One way to avoid this is to have a brand architecture from the get-go. It also pays to onboard dedicated branding and marketing professionals to manage sub-brands individually yet maintain collaboration across all teams to prevent overlaps and confusion.
For inspiration, look into Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Nestle, to name a few, who successfully serve several markets with different needs, and yet manage to offer distinct and competitive products and services.
More Successful Brand Differentiation Examples
The challenges of building a brand can skew your perspective as a business leader. Here are some awe-inspiring prime examples that successfully honed their brands to stand out.
1. Care/Of Fights Vitamin Stigma and Disinformation
Navigating your health can be dicey with lots of misinformation and disinformation online. This leads to people becoming more skeptical about vitamins or worse, taking the wrong ones.
Subscription-based vitamin company Care/Of is a prime example of a brand that takes personalization to the next level. Visiting the website leads you to a quiz that delves into the lifestyle and health goals of its customers. The quiz covers your health priorities and lifestyle—sleep, immunity, skin, fitness, stress, etc. — which then narrows down the right vitamin recommendation for you.
The tailored vitamin packs include scientific research that customers can read through. Care/Of also uses a casual yet educational tone, ensuring that vital information is understood. The personalized quiz allows users to be more self-aware and expand their knowledge of their vitamin options. As such, customers become more curious about their health and are confident in their buying decisions.
2. Gymshark Gets Upclose and Personal
With the popularity of athleisure wear in sports and fashion, cutting in the fitness apparel industry can be difficult. Initially, British brand Gymshark turned to celebrities to get the word out and increase their following. However, the brand soon realized that they are not growing as expected.
To differentiate itself, the brand partnered with athlete micro-influencers who resonate with diverse types of people and the brand's vision and mission. As a result, the brand gained traction on several ecommerce and social media platforms.
Gymshark also focused on transparency and getting more personal with its customers. For instance, the CEO gave an inside look at the brand’s growth, impact, and direction on social media. The brand also shows how each piece of apparel is designed using the most sustainable and high-performing materials.
From selling T-shirts as a side hustle a decade ago, thanks to its consistent yet ever-evolving brand differentiation strategy, Gymshark is now an international fitness apparel premium brand present in over 100 countries.
So, Which Brand Differentiation Strategy Is For You?
While it’s tempting to copy and paste what worked for other brands to stand out, keep in mind that your choice of brand differentiation strategy heavily depends on your brand stand, goals, resources, and target market. That said, be discerning and equip yourself with the right knowledge, tools, and people to build your foundation. It also pays to listen to your consumers and embrace change when necessary.
To recap, implementing brand differentiation brings you the following advantages:
- Build a strong brand that may potentially transcend generations
- Create a close-knit community of loyal customers
- Become an industry leader and stand out
- Increase sales
If you’re ready to reap the above benefits, kickstart your success by working with brand design experts!
Updated: Feb 8, 2023