True differentiation requires fearlessness.
It is the era of the copycat, the age of the follower, the moment of the mimic. The current marketplace, for so many brands operating in varied industries and verticals, is increasingly saturated, noisy, and undeniably crowded.
Likewise, this is equally as true for brands in the commercial real estate, healthcare, and B2B space. It’s common for a few large companies to lead the way, set the tone, and create the image. Then, everyone else, new entrants and challenger brands alike, follow in their wake, and sometimes imitate, blend in, and hope to benefit from using a branding strategy that simply coasts along on the coattails of the market leader.
Yes, there may be a few benefits associated with mirroring an existing brand strategy of another well-established company or market leader and playing it safe. However, there is also a downside, in that your brand will never stand out and realize its full potential. Therefore, an important question must be asked, and answered honestly: Do you have the courage to differentiate yourself?
What is Brand Courage?
Brands that decide to make a bold statement against their competitors are brave and courageous—they are ready and open to show how they are different. There are multiple components that go into displaying brand courage, which include:
- Originality: Developing an image, voice, and reputation that is unique—and doesn’t resemble the competition.
- Sincerity: Having a genuine brand personality is important, and it cannot appear empty, hollow, or fake.
- Understanding: A targeted audience should be defined, and their needs should be recognized, valued, and understood.
- Consistency: Brand standards should be clear, distinct, familiar, and predictable—no matter where you are connecting with a consumer.
- Visibility: Your brand should not exist in a silo or only have a presence online or across social media channels. Courageous marketing is comprehensive.
- Continuously Improving: A brand who wants to stand out should also always be focused on improving—products, services, customer satisfaction, all of it.
- Risk Taking: By seeking to take a risk, disrupt, and rise above the noise, a brand stands to reap considerable reward. Operate outside of your comfort zone.
Plus, brand courage is not just showing up in the marketplace differently; rather, the brand itself is operating differently. The brands that really seek to go against the grain and be disruptors recognize their strategy encompasses both the external as well as internal.
And personally, I believe that when a brand shows up looking, operating, and interacting differently from other competing brands in the marketplace, consumers perceive a standalone, with a unique brand DNA and personality.
Brand Differentiation is Not “Do Everything”
Too often, a brand wants to try to stand out in the market by being everything to everyone—it’s common to want to be multifaceted and appeal to many audiences.
Unfortunately, this “do everything” approach isn’t sustainable and serves to muddy a brand’s identity. Instead, take the time to determine what your brand’s strengths are, where your unique capabilities lie, and what your competition does not have.
That is the basis for brand differentiation.
In order to be viewed as different, you must figure out:
- What key challenges are you solving for your audience?
- Does your audience feel like you understand their needs?
- Can you clearly articulate that special thing about your brand that makes you a consumer’s first choice?
Ultimately, brand differentiation is accomplished when a brand makes their audience the hero and helps them reach their full potential–after all, it is important to remember that the customer will always be the hero in their own story. It is a complex series of distinctions that encompasses your brand’s internal workings and external image, voice, and message. And it helps the customer be ready and prepared for whatever lies on the road ahead.
When Is “Too Different” Too Much?
It is a worthy goal to want your brand to stand out and differentiate itself. And while this can be a focus for many brands operating in varied verticals, including B2B, B2C, technology, finance, CPG as well as many others—it is not always easily attainable for certain types of businesses or industries.
In this regard, I want to cite the healthcare industry specifically—because being “too different” could be a true concern when looking to appeal to patients who want to know their health and wellness are in good hands.
Let’s start from a design standpoint. There is a common tendency within healthcare branding, and it doesn’t matter the market or location. While branding goes well beyond a logo alone, no one can deny that if you pay even a moment’s attention to healthcare brands, logos tend to favor colors that sit somewhere on the spectrum of blue.
Now, when it comes to color theory, there is a good reason for this. Blue is a hue that is typically associated with trust, credibility, professionalism, cleanliness, credibility, calm, and focus.
All characteristics, frankly, that a healthcare organization likely wants their brand to be synonymous with, as all are important to patients.
Healthcare is an incredibly personal space, but too often, it can come across to patients and prospective consumers as sterile, clinical, and cold.
To stand out in this highly competitive space then, it is not necessary to completely throw out your existing image and start fresh. Rather, a healthcare organization can display brand courage by creating connection points between the business and the person, focus on realizing better patient experiences, breaking down barriers to communication, and placing relationships at the forefront of messaging.
In an industry like healthcare, a brand can be different through:
- Connecting through transparent, empathetic communication. Never assume what an audience cares about or already knows—always explain the who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Creating a seamless consumer journey experience—no matter the platform the audience member chooses to engage on, be it through traditional means or online.
- Finding one crucial factor that makes your brand unique, and then building awareness driving campaigns around that differentiator. Plant a flag and own your space.
- Humanizing your brand. No one wants to be treated like a number. And even though healthcare is personal, the space it exists in has become institutionalized. Highlight the talented people behind your brand who make it tick and fulfill its mission. Tell more stories, use emotion, and focus on solutions, not statistics.
Even in a demanding space like healthcare, it is possible to stand out against rivals without completely throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when it comes to your branding and marketing strategy.
What Path to Differentiation is Right for Your Brand?
Simply put, it depends. And if after reading this article, you feel unsure about how you can make your brand stand out in your respective space and industry, then I welcome the opportunity to talk with you.
I’d love to ask some questions, learn about your objectives, and gain understanding of how you envision your brand and want to appeal to your targeted consumers. I invite you to connect with me today.