A revealing question

When we’re conducting brand definition workshops, we often see clients struggle with the question “What makes your brand different?”

Having analysed their competitors’ offerings in depth, they know that whatever feature or benefit they name, customers could probably find something similar somewhere else.

The thing is, customers generally don’t analyse the various competitors in anywhere near as much depth. They’ll search, or go by word of mouth, and then research the brands they learn about to see whether they fit their needs and values.

What matters is that they can discover enough specific characteristics of the brand to assess that fit. If the fit is good, it won’t matter if one or other of those characteristics is similar to the competition; once they’ve found what they’re looking for, potential customers are unlikely to go fact-checking to make sure the brand’s characteristics are genuinely unique. They are likely to look elsewhere if they don’t find any specific characteristics to latch onto.

So from a brand strategy perspective, what matters is not that you offer something no other brand can replicate. What matters is clear, confident commitment to a position.

Customers are likely to look elsewhere if they don't find anything specific to latch onto.

We saw evidence of this while researching investment brands for issue 2 of the Redhouse Brand Report. Some investment houses argue that customers should choose them for their trusted, expert ‘house view’ – a centrally decided investment strategy all their advisors are expected to abide by. Others argue that customers should choose them because they don’t impose a house view on their trusted, expert advisors.

Industry experts could probably make a career out of analysing the data from different houses, trying to determine which approach – house view or no house view – is objectively better for customers. The truth is, there are convincing arguments for either approach. There’s no definitively right or wrong answer.

Sometimes, differentiating your brand from the competition really is that simple.

The best way to find the right position to commit to is by clearly defining your brand strategy. Continuing with the investment house view example, if your vision, values, proposition and brand narrative are all about stability, trust and a proven track record, then a house view informed by the brand’s long institutional memory would strengthen that story – making it a point of difference worth promoting.

This article is from issue 2 of the Redhouse Brand Report.

For more insights and action points to strengthen your brand, download the complete report now.