Stand out or blend in and be forgotten. That’s a pretty good measurement to use when evaluating your own marketing campaign. How is your brand perceived in your product category?
Every once in a while, a brand just comes out and says that they’re not like the others. In the nineties, there was ‘Think Different’ by Apple. This was from the same company that brought us ‘The computer for the rest of us’. A tagline designed to let Apple users know that, well, they’re different.
Another way that brands go about defining themselves as ‘not like the others’ is to develop a positioning that’s intended for a narrower target. Most luxury brands fall into this category, including Mercedez-Benz, Godiva, Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Cartier and others. However, once a particular category becomes crowded with brands – like luxury fashion – the elusive goal of how to appear different is just as challenging.
In the B2B category, it can be even more difficult to create a perception of ‘being different’. Ad budgets are smaller, so it’s tougher to create a distinct brand personality.
Salesforce.com decided that they were going to embrace ‘no software’ positioning in order to separate themselves from Oracle, SAP, and many other competitors. This brand platform is something of a reach, since there is indeed software involved in what they offer. However, they obviously felt it was important to carve out a strong differentiator, and given the level of success the brand has achieved it looks like they were spot on.
There are a number of contemporary brands that use a combination of wit and intelligence in an attempt to separate themselves from competitors. Mini Cooper is a good example. So is The Economist. Microsoft has tried to achieve this, but often fails. Adidas succeeds more often than not.
Most brands simply don’t recognize the importance of being perceived as different. They want potential customers to know all the ways they are better, and as a result their advertising focuses on product benefits. But here’s the reality check: You have to be noticed first. And when you’re a tiger standing in a field of sheep, you get noticed. Convincing the prospect you have a better product can only come after they’ve chosen to give you a bit of their precious time and attention. And that’s something you have to go out and grab.