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Old school marketing text books refer to differentiating your brand. It's heralded as a core principle of marketing strategy and communications, based on the general belief that a brand must be seen to be different in order to grab and grow market share.In the increasingly crowded sectors we’re all operating in, it’s becoming harder (nay impossible) to find that point of difference. So how much does differentiation matter?
What if rather than trying to convince your customers your brand is different, you were to put your efforts into understanding the people you want to do business with and focus on activity that inspires and encourages them to connect with you?
4 reasons why you should ditch differentiation and be more distinctive
1. There’s not enough differentiation to go around
Look at your competition. Chances are everyone’s saying pretty much the same thing. True, where you can’t differentiate on product you might be able to on experience – e.g. ‘we’re faster’ but even brand experience is easier to emulate these days. Furthermore, research* has shown that people will still buy from brands they don’t feel are ‘different’ and this is essentially because these brands have a distinctive look, feel, tone and content. These brands are memorable/inspiring/engaging even though they’re offering the same as others in their sector.
2. Choice outstrips demand
No matter what we’re buying for life or for business, we’re overwhelmed with options. As consumers we’re becoming increasingly ‘brand weary’; it’s just too much effort to work out why one brand is different from the next. We want to be inspired and impressed just as much as we want a good deal.
3. We’re hard-wired for simplicity**
We just don’t have the time to trawl through endless websites saying the same things about the same product or service. We want clear, confident and inspiring design and content that tells us what we want to hear. So don’t over face us with endless facts and stats, or say the same things in a slightly different way. Give us succinct, give us dynamic, encourage us to interact with you and never promise what you can’t deliver.
4. Your customer profile is evolving***
The days of the passive receiver of images and information are well and truly over. People born after the year 2000 (who are now as much your influencers and buyers as the generation of execs before them) expect to be able to read and research content on-the-go. They’ll seek affirmation of their choices via friends and colleagues via social media. They’ll also want to share their brand experiences, make recommendations, write reviews and expect a response to a question asked via social media within 12 hours.
4 tips to becoming more distinctive
1. Find out who you are and do it on purpose****
A strong, confident, relevant and inspiring brand identity and experience is critical if you want your business to be successful. People inside the business need to understand and embrace your values, personality and vision equally (if not more than) your customers. How many people in your business are true advocates of your brand vision?
2. Be human not corporate
Searching every website, writing every tweet, posting every picture on Instagram is a human being. A real person like you, like me, like the person you sit next to on the bus, train or tram. We all have hopes, fears and aspirations and as far as brands are concerned, we’ll make a decision on whether to interact with them on both an emotional and rational basis, no matter whether it’s as a business ‘buyer’ or a lifestyle ‘consumer’. Understanding what makes your customers tick is critical therefore, as this is knowledge that will help you to establish better, more fruitful connections by saying the right things in the right way and so ultimately be more distinctive. Without this, you’re just confining your business to a sea of sameness.
3. Look at how other sectors are keeping it simple
There are plenty of consumer brands and an increasing number of business brands that are embracing simplicity. This doesn’t mean they’re stripping their identity and content right back, but rather that they’ve worked out what their customers want from them and they’re delivering it through activity and media that’s easily accessible. Here are some examples:-
4. Be more consumer. Be more digital.
With 6 out of 10 senior influencers and buyers conducting at least 6 online searches a day and 93% using Google to begin the buying process you can’t afford not to be digital. By digital this means having an online presence that’s mobile responsive as it’s highly likely they’ll be accessing you via their smartphone or tablet. By consumer this means taking a more human approach to the way in which you communicate. If you’ve worked out what your customers want from you, then you’ll be able to tell them what they want to hear. It also means embracing the tips and techniques used by successful consumer brands to connect with their customers.
The Danish shipping company Maersk is a good example of this. From time-lapse videos on Vimeo to intriguing photos on Instagram, Maersk doesn’t discriminate when it comes to using typically B2C-friendly social platforms.
What all of this points to is ‘it ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it’ and that’s what makes you distinctive, connects you with your customers in a human way and in doing so gets results in terms of increased awareness, advocacy, quality leads and sales.
Want to grow your business? Be distinctive. Visit us at Clock Creative to see what makes us tick.
* Romaniuk, Sharp & Ehrenberg (2007)
** Daniel Kahneman; ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’ (2011)
*** Ipsos Millennial Social Influence Study 2014
**** Thanks to Dolly Parton for her enduring words of wisdom