Complete this statement: All our competitors believe X but we believe Y about the world/people/our industry.
Great brands can do this easily. They can pinpoint their unique point of view and then drive that foundational difference through everything they do.
This point of difference then becomes the focus for all of a well-differentiated brand’s marketing and communications efforts — the driver that transforms their culture and ensures their brand is lived internally, and serves as the catalyst for exceptional execution and customer service.
We call this simple idea a strategic point of view (POV). Unfortunately, most organizations cannot fill in these blanks, and several studies indicate that too many of us perceive the vast majority of brands to be undifferentiated from their competitors.
Importance of differentiation
Harvard strategy guru Michael Porter says, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” Differentiation is the essence of strategy — and it’s what makes a brand different from a commodity.
An organization may have a logo, an advertising campaign and awareness in its category — but if it’s not differentiated, it’s really just a very expensive commodity.
Great brands commit to continually reinforcing their strategic POV. During the 2012 London Olympics, Nike reinforced its point in their campaign, which imparted that “everyone else believes greatness is just for superstars, but we believe it resides in everyone.”
It was a way for Nike to get back to the core differentiator of a brand built on the idea that everyone should “Just Do It.”
Most brands and organizations should take time to step back and examine whether or not they have a unique strategic POV. But what steps can you take to find yours? We’ve identified five principles of successful strategy innovation through our work with successful brands and organizations:
- Values, beliefs and worldview create a more powerful and sustainable competitive advantage than more functional or purely emotional appeals.
- Understanding internal values and culture at an organization is as important as understanding the consumer — the strategic POV must motivate both consumers and employees.
Identify new customer segmentation models to create fresh lenses for the strategy and uncover meaningful market opportunities.
- Identify new segmentation models to create fresh lenses for the strategy and uncover meaningful market opportunities.
- Always explore types of strategic brand imagery not being used by your competitors (is everyone else in your category focusing their brands around user imagery? Then look at occasion imagery or another imagery dimension to focus your difference.)
- Beware the “Zajonc Trap.” Dr. Robert Zajonc was a respected psychologist who uncovered the fact that human beings don’t like new and different things initially. All market research and internal selling must accommodate for this when trying to come up with a strategic POV that is truly different.
The results can be astounding when brands incorporate these principles into their quest to arrive at a truly differentiated strategic POV.