How to Determine Your Key Brand Differentiators — “Scale-Up Your Brand” Series

Differentiation may quite possibly be the top priority in brand development.   In today’s competitive business environment, simply being better than other brands no longer creates a sustainable advantage.  Your brand must be different.  As you scale-up your brand, it is critical to identify and develop your key brand differentiators.key brand differentiators

How to Scale-Up Your Brand

I’ve provided this blog post series, Scale-Up Your Brand, to help if you are looking to grow from a mid-sized business into a large enterprise or from a later-stage start-up to post-IPO.  I’ve laid out the steps that I usually take with my clients:

We are now at the final step, determining your key brand differentiators.

What Are Brand Differentiators?

A brand differentiator is a unique feature, aspect, and/or benefit of your product or service that sets it apart from competing brands.  A single differentiator or a robust set of them form the basis for how you establish competitive advantage.

That’s because our brains are hard-wired to notice differences.  Take a look at the image below and see how you automatically focus on the red match.


Your brand must stand out from all the other choices your customers have, like the red match.

It’s been over 8 years since brand guru Jack Trout popularized the phrase “Differentiate or Die,” with his book by the same title.  The need for brands to establish meaningful, sustainable differentiation has only increased in the time that has passed. People have more choices — and more attention spans — than ever before. That combination makes brand differentiation more difficult — and more important. 

People have more choices -- and more attention spans -- than ever before. That combination makes brand differentiation more difficult -- and more important.Click To Tweet

The best way to establish brand differentiation is to leverage one or more key differentiators.

How to Prioritize Your Brand Differentiators

Sometimes your key brand differentiator(s) is obvious and definitive.  In other cases. you may have many possible differentiators and you need to prioritize them.  I recommend identifying three key differentiators and designating the lead one among the three.

Here’s how:
1. Make a list of all the things that do or could differentiate your brand – consider the following:

  • target market — the specific customer segment(s) your brand appeals to
  • attributes — descriptive qualities or characteristics of your product or brand
  • ingredients/specifications — the unique elements that comprise your product
  • methods — the proprietary method by which your product is made or your service is delivered
  • claims — definitive statements that can be made about your brand
  • brand heritage/story — the narrative of why and how your brand came to exist
  • technologies and/or patents — specific technologies in your product or service and/or the patents you hold or have applied for
  • performance or efficacy — the unique way your product works or result it produces
  • endorsements — statements of approval or support from a person(s), group(s), or organization(s)
  • awards — recognition you’ve gleaned
  • company — your organization’s unique programs, people, design, etc.
  • brand personality — the way your brand expresses itself

2. Rate each differentiator on the following dimensions:

  • importance to target customers — your differentiation must make a difference to the people you want to attract
  • difference from competitors — the greater the difference, the stronger the differentiator
  • ease of achieving and sustaining — consider how easy it is for you to establish and maintain the differentiation
  • relevance to brand essence/purpose — the strongest differentiators closely relate to or support your brand essence or purpose

3. Use the ratings to prioritize the top 3-5 differentiators (look for the highest scores on all four dimensions) and identify the lead one.

A couple of tips:

  • Ensure each differentiator is clear and specific.  Each should be understandable in language used by your target customers and each should be as descriptive and definitive as possible.
  • Consider using A/B testing among your target customers to help you understand the relative importance of your differentiators.

I hope this Scale-Up Your Brand series has provided you with the tools, methods, and information that will help you grow and evolve your business.  I would love to hear your success stories — as well as your questions and challenges.  Please use the Comments section below or contact me here.  And, if you’re interested in getting the e-book Scale-Up Your Brand, please subscribe to my newsletter so you will be notified as soon as it becomes available.


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