There’s an alarming trend in my industry. Where good people ‘follow the herd.’ Aspiring coaches and consultants see the success that established people within the industry have achieved, and understandably want the same for themselves. They think that if they emulate exactly what the industry leaders do, their business will fly. Often they’re prepared to spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds on products to ‘learn the exact same system’ that made their chosen guru successful. But will this differentiate your brand from the competition?
Unfortunately there’s no magic pill. Following the ‘exact same system’ won’t catapult your business into the Super League.
I’m all for learning from people who have mastered their craft and created phenomenally successful businesses and I have a handful of people whose work I follow closely. But if you think that following the exact same system as your mentor of choice will help you to build a highly successful business with brand equity, think again.
The clue is in the word ‘following.’ Following by definition makes it impossible to differentiate your brand from the competition.
Great businesses and great brands lead. They do not follow.
Great businesses create a highly competitive brand positioning that makes them market leaders.
Great brands differentiate themselves from the competition.
Great businesses understand that to stand out in a crowded marketplace, they have to pursue one or more of three chief strategies. Be first to the market. Own an attribute. Specialise. Great brands often lay claim to all three strategies.
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” ~ George S. Patton Jr.
Here are three ways you can differentiate your brand from the competition.
1. Be First To Market
When you’re first to market, the first to create a demand and fill it, this gives your brand the strong differentiating advantage of market leadership. Whether it’s real or perceived. The Motorola Xoom may have been a superior product to the iPad. But had you ever heard of it before you read this article?
Being first to market could mean being the first business of your type within a given geographic location. But more often, it’s the result of offering a new product, or new service or new customer experience. By positioning your brand as ‘the first,’ it challenges your competitors to make moves that don’t seem outdated, predictable, unoriginal or just plain boring in comparison. We’ve seen this played out over the years between Coca Cola and PepsiCo in ‘the Cola Wars.’
2. Own An Attribute
Customers today expect quality products, good service and fair prices. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, your aim has to be to identify your business with an attribute that either (a) nobody else is talking about and/ or (b) constitutes a serious weakness in your competitor.
Lululemon Athletica have done this by creating a sense of community around each of their retail stores, taking customer service to a whole new level. Their highly trained employees, called ‘educators,’ offer personal service and attention to customers who are referred to as ‘guests.’ They host yoga classes and running clubs, even for the benefit of ‘guests’ who don’t buy anything!
If you own a meaningful attribute, people are more likely to remember your business and consider you when they’re buying.
A particularly effective way to differentiate your brand is to specialise in a target market by designing your brand to appeal to a specific type of business. My friend Christina Jones has done just that. If you were to search for a digital marketing agency here in the UK, a Google search would throw of thousands of results, all offering well-designed websites and a full agency digital marketing service. But Christina has deep expertise in the horse world, and specialises in providing digital marketing services to equine businesses. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t serve other customers; she does. But if you wanted to promote your equestrian stable or horse products or equine charity, who would you choose? A agency that specialises in the industry, or a generic digital marketing agency?
We’re hard wired to notice differences. And it’s these differences that attract people to our brand. Brands that stand out from the competition are powered by strong and clear differentiation.
Whether it’s Lululemon or Apple or Brendon Burchard, all successful brands have a very clear vision of themselves, and position themselves in ways that play to their strengths.
Are You Creating A Lighthouse Brand?
Lighthouse brands is a concept from Adam Morgan’s ‘Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders.’ In the book, Morgan writes:
Success as a Challenger comes through developing a very clear sense of who or what you are as a brand/ business and why – and then projecting that identity intensely, consistently, and saliently to the point where, like a lighthouse, consumers notice you (and know where you stand) even if they’re not looking for you.”
The term ‘Challenger Brand’ describes, “…brands and businesses with ambitions that outstrip their resources; those who know they must apply a very different approach to strategy, positioning and company culture in order to compete with the established leaders.”
Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Uber are great examples of challenger or lighthouse brands. They have all pursued more than one of the three strategies listed above
If you’re questioning whether you have it in you to build a lighthouse brand, look to the example of Mark Zuckerberg. He launched Facebook in 2004 as a 20-year student with no business experience whatsoever. Consider what Mark Zuckerberg has achieved in 12 years!
It’s thinking like a ‘challenger’ or ‘lighthouse’ brand that will enable you to differentiate your brand from the competition.
Join The Conversation?
Question: How do you differentiate your brand from the competition?
Explore These Additional Resources
- The 9 Characteristics of a Successful Brand Strategy
- 6 Business Lessons From PANDORA
- How Do Leading Brands Stay Relevant?
- How Brand Association Affects Buying Decisions
I help results driven business owner who wants to put their business on firm foundations so that they can scale and become profitable quickly. I provide business consultancy and business coaching services on either a 1:1 and group basis. I draw on my 8 years’ experience as a CEO to help the businesses I work with to differentiate themselves from the competition and punch above their weight in a noisy marketplace.
Prior to becoming a business consultant and coach, I gained 25 years’ experience in business in senior management and leadership roles, including 8 years as a former CEO. This experience is backed up by training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school.
You can find out more about working with me HERE. Or alternatively email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an informal chat over coffee. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.
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