Be Different, Not Better
by Adwright, 20 December 2018
“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”
Better, faster, stronger – we have heard it over and over again from advertisements. Every brand seems to be ‘The best’ or ‘The ultimate’ or of ‘High quality’ of some sorts, it’s always the same idea conveyed in different words. Everyone is trying to send the message that their brand is, well, better.
It is hard for brands to resist trying to measure up to competitors but being better is a trap, ‘better’ will always be a losing game for your brand. Don’t play into your competitors’ hands. Strong brands are unique, they say and do something different from others, play to the beat of their own drum and follow controversial beliefs or see the future through a different lens. No matter how you use those same phrases, they are all just features people have heard before, benefits that don’t convey much, they do nothing to speak to our emotions. Under every feature and benefit lies the ‘better’ trap.
Don’t fall into a ‘better’ trap, better doesn’t matter. Different is what matters.
So how do we go about being different?
Even if you do actually have the best product, a brand narrative that rests on being ‘better’ will not last. For as long as you are trying to be better than someone else, your identity is tied to that brand, always in some sort of competition, even if names were never mentioned. You are willing your consumers to define you against the very thing you are trying to separate yourself from. Shift your focus away from others, define who you are and what you want to be, away from the expectations of what you have to be ‘better’ than.
Frame of reference
To escape the ‘better’ trap, the frame of reference needs to change – a brand is not its features or benefits. A brand is a way of life, a point of view, an opinion, a vision of the future. A brand in its essence, is a belief. Belief is the new benefit. This is where the focus should be, where a ‘different’ strategy can be found.
While features are important in brand messaging, they are not defining factors of a brand, they form foundations still in need of support. This is a paradigm shift worth exploring.
Does size matter
Many small brands tend to think that being different is only for big brands but this is not true. Being different is not just about bold, controversial moves, it can be as simple as a strong belief that sets you apart from the crowded market. A lot of established brands still lose to those that dare to be different in their perspectives. So, while the product needs to deliver on its promises, a brand with a compelling point of view can keep customers around while you iron out your details. A great brand based on a strong belief can make your users experience the future, even if the today is a little messy.
This is the necessary paradigm shift – a shifted focus that allows you to dissociate from all the rules that puts your competitor in the spotlight. Give your consumers something bigger than ‘better’. Make them care about something different than what they care about now.
Ways to win at being ‘different’
- Branded or brand-led. The difference between the two makes all the difference.
While both branded and brand-led companies have identities, branded companies are recognized by their products. And when a product supersedes the brand in itself, the company is at the mercy of consumers and their needs. This means that despite the brand’s identity, if the market demands lower prices and more generic styles, the company is forced to conform. On the other hand, brand-led companies play the long game and require more investment. The brand identity goes beyond the product and allows a company to resist certain market forces. Nike for example, is one brand-led company that can release distinct new product categories and occupy different price levels. The brand vision, not mass consumer pressures dictates its growth.
- Find a new dimension
Find the dimension that everyone else is blind to. Don’t just see your brand for its product, delve deeper into who your brand is, what your story is. For example, when you approach the idea of health and exercising, delve deep beyond the normative concepts. This is what recent new gyms have done as they approached the idea of health using beauty through wellness of the body; marketing their classes as a wholesome package of becoming the best person you can be, cleansing your body internally and externally. Find a new dimension that people never knew they were looking for.
- Lifestyle branding
For centuries, the marketing industry has been using aspirational marketing styles, building aspirational brands, brands that show how you want to be living. Wearing diamonds, driving that sports car, jetting off on holidays, live the life of the rich. However, this marketing style creates distance, it separates and alienates due to its rigid rules that may have worked in a hierarchal world but the hierarchal world, be it in business, gender or class is crumbling and quickly losing its hold.
How do we then continue market based on what people aspire for without creating distance?
The answer is lifestyle branding. Lifestyle brands insert themselves into the important life moments of their users. Specifically, life moments that echo brand’s guiding beliefs. Place your brand within the life moments of regular people that relate to your beliefs.
- Change the focus, Change the reality
Instead of constantly showing the customer who your brand is, reveal the customer to themselves. This means show how your brand thinks differently by communicating who the customer is. Show your consumers how your brand belief will change the way they think and live and make a tangible difference. Let your brand inspire new beliefs about the industry. For example, while most hotels say look who we are, Airbnb confidently says that they see who you are. They are different and they inspire a whole new belief about how travelling should be done. Airbnb created a whole different conversation based on ‘different’ and crafted a space in the travelling industry just for themselves.
People think there is only one approach to things, you can change that. Intelligent brands reframe people’s perspectives that are taken for granted, so that consumers can adopt a new reality that benefits the brand. Relocating the same product in a vastly different story puts every competitor in a different market space from you.
So, why be ‘better’ when you can simply be different.
Identifying brand beliefs that are not just authentic to who your brand is but also strong enough to be the backbone of your brand can get challenging. Adwright has accumulated a wealth of experience in helping brands find their positioning within their various industries with unique and attractive brand stories. From local SMEs to global corporations, We provide integrated solutions in branding, design, communications and beyond. Partner with us and embark on your unique brand journey today.