The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Brand Differentiation
Many brands focus on being trustworthy, reliable, maintaining high quality standards, developing innovative product and service solutions, delivering outstanding customer service and being highly responsive to customer requests. These areas of foci have led to continuous improvements in customer experiences. However, they have demoted integrity, reliability, high quality, innovation, customer focus and responsiveness from differentiating benefits to “cost of entry” benefits in many industries. Never the less, some brands are still clearly superior or even singular in their delivery against one or more of these attributes/benefits. Consider Apple and innovation or Nordstrom and customer service. One of our clients continues to gain market share by being superior in customer responsiveness. Even if you aren’t the top brand in your category on one or more of these attributes/benefits, it would still behoove you to become as good as possible with at least some of them.
When we work with clients to develop brand positioning statements at our brand positioning workshops and they want to focus on “trustworthy,” “superior quality” or “innovation” as part of their brand promises, we strive to ensure that they are committed to delivering against the chosen attribute, benefit or quality in an exceptional way. For these types of attributes/benefits, it is much more important to deliver on them than it is to talk about them. Taking about something that many brands talk about just blends into marketplace noise. Actually delivering on them in a unique or superior way leads to successful differentiation.Read More
Remarkably, even though Song Airlines (Delta’s high-touch low-cost subsidiary) was folded back into Delta in Mid 2006, I still get several comments each month from former customers and employees about what a great brand it was. As the creator of the airline, and builder of the brand, I am at once gratified by their fondness yet disappointed that the airline became a casualty of bankruptcy and the need to economize – maintaining two independent airline brands and workforces was more expensive than one, and austerity was the rule of the day.
Yet people still talk longingly about Song, even though it hasn’t flown in six years. Why is that? Isn’t the airline industry just one big commodity provider? For the most part, yes, certainly in the case of the legacy airlines it is true. Each of them has created their airline to be the “carrier of choice” for the businessman.
But as niche airlines have developed, we have seen product differentiation start to take shape. Most people still remember People Express, a true low cost carrier that appealed to the common man versus the traditional well-heeled customer, and was dedicated to the proposition that everyone should be able to fly. On the other side of the spectrum was MGM Grand Air, which provided an uber-First Class experience, but was expensive to fly, served very few markets and not enough customers to be successful.
How have some of the other non-legacy airlines differentiated themselves? Well, for Southwest, it was the peanuts and the flight attendant humor. For Spirit, it’s ultra-low cost fares, but you must be willing to pay for everything else, yes even charging for toilet use was announced then scrapped. JetBlue introduced live in-flight TV and an upscale low cost product, while Hooters Air chose to appeal to the …well, you know who you are.Read More
For many years, a smooth green stone has sat on my desk. It’s a piece of serpentine that I was given when as a small child, I visited an artist’s workshop in Scotland. Truthfully, it’s a pretty unremarkable rock, and I doubt that anyone else would find it interesting, but it means something to me.
You may have some trinket or memento on your desk as well—something that doesn’t have any practical purpose and appears insignificant to others, but is meaningful to you. Your unique history with the object makes it special.
I think the fact that we can form such attachments with relatively inconsequential objects illustrates a too-often-overlooked concept that is important for brands and brand marketing: the concept of meaningful difference. A presentation I saw recently, created by agency BBH, proclaimed that the “classic” communications model, under which communication that is relevant, different, and motivating leads to behavioral change, has given way to the “insight” model, in which changes in behavior are effected by communication that is simply relevant and motivating.
“We have forgotten the power of difference,” the BBH asserts. I am afraid that they are right—and that this amnesia applies to both communication and branding. Many marketers today do value relevance to the exclusion of difference—and to the detriment of their brands.Read More
Design is an essential thinking skill that must be mastered as a strategic business imperative throughout the entire enterprise. Design is not merely a decorative act.
Everywhere one looks in the marketplace there is revolution and disintegration. Wave after wave of technological change and ubiquitous choice comes upon us more rapidly, engulfing us, confusing us more profoundly. Brand marketers are struggling to keep pace with disruptive forces that are reshaping the manner in which they innovate new value in this so-called new economy.
Globalization has still to prove itself globally useful amidst a world experiencing the dynamic tension of growing consumption and dwindling supply. The new workplace has seen its own revolution. People no longer rely on the old paradigms of security within the corporation as out-sourced manufacturing, customer service, and even out-sourced innovation mark the end of an era of status quo–especially in the US. Ironically, the nature of this paradigm shift has un-hinged our own intuitive human connections even as we become more and more digitally connected in the social web.
Many brand marketers have been unprepared to re-think the structures of their enterprises and flow with the changing times, while new, more agile competitors are doing it for them. Brand strategy is no longer about differentiating brands within a category, but rather designing a whole new category your brand can own.Read More
The ultimate goal of any brand effort is differentiation. Setting your product apart from its competitors is an essential first step toward creating preference and loyalty. According to research firm, Millward Brown, “Brands that are perceived as being different have a much higher potential for growth than do other brands.” Consequently, identifying and communicating meaningful points of difference has become the focus of much strategic branding work.
Yet we wonder if consumers are listening? Do they even care about our carefully crafted ‘points of difference’ and ‘reasons to believe’? Harvard professor, Youngme Moon, observes in her book “Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd”, that corporations have become experts at augmentation and replication, but aren’t that good at creating meaningful differences. She provocatively writes:
“If aliens were to visit a grocery store or a drugstore in this country they would have to conclude that we are a people hooked on the pleasures of picking needles out of haystacks.”
The Case of Diamond Shreddies
In 2006, a clever Canadian campaign for “New Diamond Shreddies” turned the mirror back on marketers’ often inane attempts at creating differences. The joke is that the only difference is that the shape is no longer a square, it is a ‘diamond’, (“kind of like the difference between a 6 and a 9”), and therefore tastes better. The satire is carried off brilliantly with focus group testimonials and commercials touting the advantages of a diamond shape over a square.
Urban legend says this campaign was created by an intern at Ogilvy. If that is true, it’s a case of the newbie pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothes. How many of us are guilty of seizing upon some meaningless, but exclusive product point of difference as the supposed basis of brand preference?Read More