Brand differentiation comes from the user’s perception
There is not a huge amount of difference between leading brands. Depending on the category, almost all brands offer the same feature, function, and benefit to the user.
What makes a differentiated brand?
First, let’s explore the idea of a brand.
1 a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name: a new brand of detergent.
• a brand name: the company will market computer software under its own brand.
• a particular identity or image regarded as an asset: you can still invent your own career, be your own brand | the Michael Jordan brand certainly hasn’t hurt them.
• a particular type or kind of something: his incisive brand of intelligence.
The emphasis is to stand apart and stand for something.
A brand also allows companies to manufacture different models under the same brand name.
For example, Gulfstream Aerospace manufactures the following aircraft: Gulfstream G150, Gulfstream G280, Gulfstream G450, etc.
The intent is for the brand to offer more features and better performance as you move up the price chain.
Which leads us to brand differentiation
The simplest explanation is one of branding cattle. Each cattle ranch burned a unique mark into the hide of the cow or steer it owned. This was done to separate specific animals from the herd in the early days of open range grazing. This basic concept is the foundation for trademarks, which leads to brand differentiation.
Brand differentiation in the digital age
Branding strategy has expanded to include digital platforms and social media networks. The primus of the expansion was for brands to interact with individual users who in turn would become brand advocates, spreading the gospel about how wonderful the product performed and why all their digital friends should try it.
And for a while, this was the thinking behind investing in social media networks and spreading tweets and likes.
Brand differentiation comes from the user. It is the user’s value system that determines brand preference.
The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences. Their value system can change based on aspirational goals, financial conditions, or maturing of values that come with age.
Marketers that strive for brand differentiation must appeal to the user’s emotional needs and fulfill these needs by brand association that serves a higher calling than feature, function, and benefit.
This is not an easy task. It is the job of marketing to uncover what is unique to the brand and communicate in such a way as to create an emotional connection with the user.
It can’t be automated, digitized, or replicated. It has to be unique, authentic, and reach the user on a personal level that melds into a lasting connection. It must be “lived” by those in care of the brand and treated as an ember that will be extinguished if left unattended.
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