Let me get right to the point. As CEO of your company, you take the lead role in defining market differentiation. So, if that was all you hoped to gain from this article, you can move on. However, if you also want some insight into how you define market differentiation, well then, read on.
What is market differentiation?
As a specialist in brand development, it is disheartening to listen to all of the brand speak. There is much confusion in the marketplace as to what a brand is. So, let’s start with the obvious. Brand is not a logo or an advertising tagline. It is not design elements or a graphical look. According to Webster’s, a brand is a “claim of distinction.” It is important not to confuse brand with branding. A brand defines a company’s market differentiation. It is, by my definition, an undisputable evidence of distinction and something that can be proven. So while branding is what you turn over to your marketing director, brand development must be led by the CEO. A brand’s distinction is what separates it from its competitors. It’s what makes it stand out as extraordinary, different or, better yet, more valuable to the end user.
How to uncover it.
Brand development is the internal discovery of brand distinction. Much to the surprise of many, it is not discovered by talking with your customers or believing that you can become something your organization is not capable of being. Brand is the essence of what your organization already is. It is, in part, what your organization has always been. It is what you are. Remember, your company mission is to “be …,” your vision is to “become …,” and your brand is what you are and what you do differently.
The process starts with fact finding and through a series of stages, extrapolating potential truths, until you have a prioritized list of absolutely unique, provable selling points. And although defined here in a single sentence, don’t underestimate the power of brand discovery. The deeper you dig and the more thorough the analysis, the more obvious the essence of the brand and its leadership capabilities will become. And the easier it will be to assume a long-term brand leadership position going forward.
From this process, you can establish the foundation for an undisputable statement of differentiation and a leadership position you are capable of controlling. It will provide a lens through which all company strategic direction should be viewed. It is your corporate values, reputation capital, name equity and social capital, which encompasses your relational and cognitive beliefs and values. Your company brand is your market driver and, as such, must get incorporated into the company’s mission, strategies and operations. It must align with the overall business plan.
Aligning business strategy and brand strategy.
Our business strategy encompasses our customers, strategic partners, distributors, employees, marketing and sales. So, too, must our brand strategy. And when the two are aligned, they form our overall corporate strategy, infusing our organization with the momentum it needs to take over the leadership position.
What’s the importance of brand leadership? It’s the added-value, good brand-positioning offers. It allows customers to adopt your brand as their own and allows for better brand management, internal adoption and crystal clear communication. Great brands control their categories and thrive for years. They set examples for others to try to mimic.
Are you ready to assume the leadership role?
Once successfully differentiated, a company separates itself from competitors and, thus, assumes a leadership position. Once aligned with the company’s business strategy, it is positioned to succeed. If there is a downside to brand leadership, it would be living up to your company’s claim and having the guts to posture the company as a leader, not a follower. Are you ready?
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 20-year-old brand development and strategic marketing firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or [email protected], or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.