Differentiating your brand from the competition

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

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.

 Brand: noun

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.

The reality

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.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Investing in your brand perception

Connecting decision makers with your brand

Why bother with branding?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Aviation Marketing: Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Aviation Marketing: Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Do customers want brand engagement or a moral cause to support?

Social marketing tactics are designed to engage the customer on different levels and extend the relationship. However some argue that engagement is not that important and that brand loyalty can be achieved by supporting causes or organizations that make the world a better place.

The aviation industry is comprised of thousands of companies that work together to keep aircraft flying, people moving, and the wheels of commerce spinning. Airlines, airports, and a few manufacturers have adopted social marketing, Which begs the question: if the majority of related businesses do not practice some form of social marketing, are they missing an opportunity to grow their business and their legion of brand advocates?

Brands can only engage when the customer is open and receptive

The digital era has disrupted the traditional strategy of branded communication. The customer now chooses the time and place for brand interaction. Considering that the customer is subjected to over 3000 advertising messages per day, one can rationalize that engagement is overrated because the customer has built up a subconscious resistance to responding because of sensory overload. Do you really want to interact with a widget manufacturer or MRO facility? Perhaps, if they have something of interest to offer or a service that makes my life easier.

Enter the idea of the cause branding

The strategy of rallying the troops around a cause can be traced back to Chinese military treaties which existed during the period of the warring states (476-221 B.C.). In the Art of War, 5 principles were identified that should be considered before entering into a military campaign:

The moral cause

The climate

The terrain

The command

Organization and discipline

Although well over 2000 years old, these principals can still be applied to aviation marketing in the digital era.  Marketers practicing people-to-people engagement may want to consider linking their brand with a cause.

Recent studies have indicated the following:

  • A shared passion can create a shared relationship between a brand and its target consumer
  • Consumers may reward or punish a company depending on its commitment to social or other causes
  • Cause marketing should be considered as a loyalty strategy for customer engagement

Leading by example

Southwest Airlines walks the talk when it comes to cause marketing. One cause they support is the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant program. Through this program, SWA provides complimentary round trip tickets to nonprofit hospitals and medical transportation programs. To date more than 26,200 tickets in 24 states have been distributed.

I’d like to hear from other aviation marketers. Have you aligned your brand with a cause? Was it beneficial? Did your customers treat your brand with a preference?

Comments welcome below.

To lean more about SWA’s Media Transportation Grant click here

To view research on cause marketing click here