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Brands in the same category are bound to have a lot in common.


By definition, they must all meet the central need. And they’re probably all relevant to many of the entry points.


But the last thing you want is for your brand to be seen as the same.


So the challenge is how to be different.


Let’s start with the blindingly obvious.


No two brands look the same, unless that’s the intention. They have different names, logos, packs, shop fronts, landing pages.


They may also have different product ranges, pricing, placings and promotion.


Their features may vary too. Your product may genuinely be better in some way, even if it is just more convenient.


But that’s generally not enough. ‘Better’ may not actually matter. What happens when everything’s pretty convenient?


I know, it’s annoying. If I’d spent years making the best product I possibly could, I’d want people to appreciate the effort.


And they may well do so. But that doesn’t guarantee they’ll choose your brand next time they’re looking.


Because another brand may come to mind first. Or they notice it first. Or they know it’ll do the job to be done because it’s done it for them before. They have trust in the experience.


So what do you do?


The answer is something different. It’s the only way.


You can think about this in a neuroscientific way. Building and refreshing memory structures, cued retrieval, System 1 thinking.


That may lead you to thinking distinctiveness is the key. People being able to easily identify that’s it’s you, which is important.


But no one ever achieved distinctiveness by being the same. There’s a clue in the dictionary definition: ‘something that is easy to recognise because it is different from other things’. We seem to have forgotten in marketing that distinctiveness is part of being different.


The other way to think is in terms of differentiation. That might be there in your product, but more often that not it’s something you have to create.


Of course, you need to decide where to play. Your world of interest may not be the same as the category Kantar defines.


But where you’re really going to play is in the minds of people who might buy your brand.


And how you’re going to win here is through positioning. In many ways, positioning is differentiation.


At which point there are three things to remember:


1. Differentiation is relative. Unlike uniqueness.


2. Differentiation is perceived. It’s the associations you build in people’s minds, plus the assets you use to trigger them.


3. Differentiation needs meaning. The benefits must be clear. What do people get? How does that make them feel?


And this has to tie up with what’s in the heads of the people in your company. The reason you exist, your purpose.


It all comes back to the old saying: a difference that makes no difference is no difference.


Same as always.


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