Brand specialists talk glibly about the importance for brand differentiation, but in the real world, businesses may have to struggle with ‘me-too’ brands. In practice they will find they have just two levers to pull. They can look to differentiate the brand, or they can look to differentiate the brand communications.
The matrix below looks at these two positions and considers what it means in terms of a brand strategy:
Box 1 – Here we have a brand that has little to differentiate itself from its competitors. We know that brand differentiation is the ideal, but any such actions may be too costly or have an unrealistic time-scale. However, we may have the possibility to set the brand apart from the competition in terms of the brand communications – how we present it to the world in general. This could be a change of image, advertising or promotion.
Box 2 – This is the happy situation. We have the possibility to either differentiate the brand intrinsically or by using the brand communications – or perhaps a combination of the two.
Box 3 – This is the problematic position. Your brand is a commodity and difficult to differentiate. In addition, it is problematic to use marketing communication to gain competitive distance. This can sometimes be the position of B2B suppliers of commodity products or services. This may be a case where the brand needs to review its cost position and see if there is possibility to differentiate the brand on a price or value platform.
Box 4 – The flip side of Box ‘1’. However this is the stronger position. It is always more satisfactory to work on the brand itself rather than the communications. Too often brand owners rush to communications solutions. Differentiating the brand through quality, service or added value is deeper and more enduring.