Brand Differentiation Will Gain You Competitive Edge

Branding Blog Post

Creating Value – How Brand Differentiation Will Gain Your Business a Competitive Edge


How is your business different from your closest competitor – and why does this matter?

As a brand identity designer, this is a key question for my initial client discovery. It seems like a simple question, but it has immensely profound implications for your business’s success.

I have found that there is a TINY minority of clients that have a clear answer to the question.

A few of the business owners that are my usual clients (my target market) leave this important question blank.

Most will type in things like “we are the best quality” “we have the best service” and “we have the best price” – but they, of course, offer no metrics or stats to support these grand and enviable claims. ; )

But actually, this poor result is quite understandable. Can you imagine a business owner saying; “Meh, we’re kind of average…” “Our service is pretty mediocre…” or “We’re way overpriced…”?

Over my past 25 years of corporate brand development, the norm is that many business owners have never really sat down and thought about brand differentiation in any depth, and this is a GOOD THING for you and your business if they are your competition.

If my experience indicates that most businesses have not even thought about this essential part of their business strategy, then with a bit of effort – if you can gain clarity on your own brand differentiation and how it impacts your target market – and you will be able to develop an edge that ensures your brand enjoys increased success in a crowded market place.


So, how do you go about finding your differentiation?

Brand differentiation isn’t something you find. It’s something you have to create. It’s about strategic decisions and consistent actions.

It’s hard work! This is exactly why most businesses have avoided the subject, and why many businesses have the same message and boast about the same bland, vague, and generic USPs, that they have probably copied off of each other.

Brand differentiation is a process of narrowing your focus on what you do the very best. The results are a more precise area of expertise and service offering that will give you a unique position in the marketplace, so the right clients know why they should choose you over your competitors.

As I said this is not easy work, and you will have to dig deep to get results – but it is well worth it, and defining brand differentiation could be the best decision that you have ever made.

Want to know how to do it? Read on…


How is your business different from your closest competitor – and why does this matter?

To recap, brand differentiation is an essential part of business strategy – if you can gain clarity on your own brand differentiation you will be able to develop an edge that ensures your brand enjoys increased success in a crowded marketplace.

Brand differentiation has multiple sources of inspiration and is a big topic. For the sake of brevity, I’ll define the top three main areas of exploration that will assist you in discovering qualities that can set your business apart:

1. Identify your core values.
2. Define your target market.
3. Analyse your competitors.

Let’s go through each of these steps.



If you are in a homogenous market where your product or service is like a commodity, then stop talking about how you are better than your competition because you offer better quality or that you are cheaper – it just doesn’t work. It is not about being better or cheaper or faster, etc. It is about you being different!

Core values play an important part in a company’s overall brand strategy and are crucial in creating a unique and robust differentiating factor. Core Values help you FIND AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION between your business and your customers.

You need to talk about your business in terms of something more than your product or service. Core Brand Values are the fundamental beliefs of a business or organisation. This is your WHY.

If folks Google your service and compare you to five of your peers that all message their similar cost, quality, etc. – customers will choose the company that they emotionally connect with, that they feel comfortable with, that inspires them, that is attractive, that has credibility, that speaks directly to them.

CORE VALUES ARTICULATE WHAT THE BRAND STANDS FOR. This does not change no matter the business situation, the economy, and so on. This articulation enables customers to align your business with their worldview.

Now, you simply cannot be attractive and appealing to everyone, so this begs the question; do you know who your customers are?



Another mystifying answer I get to “Who is your target market?” is “EVERYONE!”

Erm… no it is not.

It is impossible to appeal to everyone, what IS possible, is that you can certainly appeal to NO-ONE. So you need to work out who is your Market, Audience, or Niche – the demographic that your Core Values appeal to.

A strong brand serves a well-defined group of people, and if you don’t have a clear sense of whom you’re in business to serve, then you have no way to position your business in a way that will differentiate you from your peers.

So how do you define your tribe? Who have been your favourite customers or clients? Whom have you enjoyed serving? Who has been less hassle? What age, gender, nationality? Who didn’t haggle over the price? Where do they hang out? Where do they live? etc. Try and build a mental picture of who your perfect customer might be – and this will make it much easier to talk to them in the same language.

By becoming a valuable service provider within your newly defined niche, you will be able to grow a devoted audience – but you have to know who that audience is to build a conversation that is rooted in authenticity and shared values, and talk to them in a way that emotionally connects with them.



Why do people buy from your competitors and not you?

You can only differentiate from the competition if you know exactly how they are positioning themselves. Compare and contrast how your competitors are talking about themselves.

What are your competitor’s key strengths? What value do your potential customers convince themselves that they receive when buying from your competitor rather than from you?

What are the competition’s areas of specialisation?

What does your competitor have that you don’t have? What do they offer that you don’t offer? What are they better at doing than you?

In what ways are you superior to your competitors? How can you create an authentic and unique conversation? What’s that one thing you offer that they cannot? What is that angle that sets you apart? What is the pain or need they have – that only you can help them with? How can you emphasise this advantage in your sales and marketing efforts?

It is only when you have made this research that you can begin to find gaps and opportunities that will enable you to differentiate your business and set it apart from the crowd.

All this hard work, introspection, and analysis will 100% pay dividends and is an excellent investment of your time. Many business owners are too immersed in the business and find it too hard to be objective – if this is the case speak to a business coach or a brand strategist – it helps to get an outside, objective opinion.

The goal is to enable you to create a differentiated Unique Selling Proposition that communicates the value you hold for your preferred customers and, ultimately, that’s exactly what brand differentiation is about:

Creating Value.