10 Quick Ideas for Differentiating Your Brand

Every brand strives to be different from competitors. However, most marketers’ differentiation strategies rarely go far enough to get peoples’ attention in a crowded marketplace—or are equipped and supported throughout the organization to maintain a unique appeal for the long run. If you’re ready and determined to separate your brand from others in relevant and meaningful ways, here are 10 starting points to consider.

  1. Change the way people purchase your product. Find a channel that makes it more convenient, interesting, or surprising (in a good way) to engage with and buy from you. Highlight how this process fits your audience’s expectations or lifestyle better than what the competition is doing.
  2. Use time as a brand attribute. If your product takes a long time to build or create, use that to your advantage in your brand messaging. Extended manufacturing time (such as Rolex watches) or even extra time needed to wait for peak enjoyment (such as a pint of Guinness) are often more closely associated with high quality and craftsmanship rather than inconvenience.
  3. Embrace being the underdog. Everyone like seeing an underdog succeed. Incorporate your brand’s humble beginnings and/or resilience in the face of bigger/richer competitors in your brand story. Many successful brands can trace their origins to someone’s garage, kitchen, or backyard; if your brand has a similar narrative, let the world know.
  4. Make your brand synonymous with seasons or occasions. Specific times of the year, holidays, or lifetime moments enable us to think and act differently than regular days. You can create or broaden your appeal by tying your brand to celebrations of those occasions. No one leverages this brand strategy as effectively as Hallmark.
  5. Package your brand in your packaging. If it’s difficult to create meaningful differentiation in your product, consider making what it comes in or its purchase environment the most notable quality about it. A striking color motif (T-Mobile’s pink), an inviting retail atmosphere (Apple stores), or a memorable package design (McDonald’s Happy Meal) can all be major brand elements.
  6. Tie your brand to a cause. Whether it’s preserving the environment, supporting healthful living, or committing to values that make the world a bit better, your brand can gain greater appeal when audiences know that you care about something more than just profit.
  7. Expand or change the purpose of your product. Believe it or not, Arm & Hammer baking soda was originally meant to be used for baked goods. Today, it’s probably more well-known for a wide range of health and cleanliness benefits—kitchen cleaner, toothpaste, deodorant, skin softener, and more—than for its use in cakes and cookies.
  8. Establish a unique brand habit. Creating a specific ritual or behavior with your brand entices people to become part of your unique “club.” The Jeep wave, the Oreo milk dunk, the Corona lemon slice—all are closely tied to the brands and distinctly separate from their category competitors.
  9. Tighten your target market. Don’t be afraid to reduce the scope of your audience. It’s better to strongly appeal to a specific type of customer than to be lost among competitors seeking to reach several types. Trader Joe’s (adventurous eaters who don’t care about brand names) and Fox News (political conservatives) are examples of brands that successfully connect with highly defined audiences.
  10. Make your founder the brand hero. Many of today’s most timeless brands are embodiments of their founders’ principles and personas. Steve Jobs (Apple), Coco Chanel (Chanel), and Phil Knight (Nike) are larger-than-life industry figures that are inseparable from the companies and brands they founded, and their products continue to exemplify their values and appeal.