Study after study indicates that marketers are failing to differentiate their brands. And those brands that are truly differentiated perform far better economically. When you boil it all down, a brand is only really a brand if it is clearly differentiated from the competition.
So, how can we make sure that the strategic premise for the brand (the Strategic POV, or brand positioning, if you prefer) is unique? One way to help ensure you are differentiated is to try to think of your brand as a “category of one.” Joe Calloway wrote the book on this subject. We find it’s a great way to challenge everyone to really exit the category conventions that lead to sameness in brand strategy.
Ask your brand team to think like BMW did when that brand exited the “luxury category” and created the “performance category.” They clearly differentiated by refusing to play in the same sand box as all their competitors. In so doing they created a brand that attracted the younger, up-and-coming drivers and led to traditional luxury brands losing their appeal. The average age of Cadillac drivers drifted into the 60s.
A few years ago, we worked with Saks Fifth Avenue and used this exact same reference to help them think more like a “high-performance service” store rather than a “luxury retailer.” Their people found it inspiring to be separated from their competition and they were enlivened when challenged to deliver this kind of differentiated service.
Easy to say. Hard to do. But if you can create a new category concept it can work to inspire your people as well as differentiate your brand.