The Art of Differentiation
“The Art of Differentiation.” This is how brand identity designer David Brier defines branding. And I love it.
I love it because the word “brand” is so ambiguous. We’ve written on this topic previously, attempting to create some clarity and articulate our philosophy when it comes to helping products and businesses create unique, engaging and memorable identities.
But this definition gets to the heart of what a good brand does. It identifies, crafts and expresses something about your brand that is supremely unique to you. And a strong brand does this in a way that sets them apart from the competition and resonates with their audience in memorable ways.
It’s not enough to be good. Or better. You have to be different in order to stand out and be remembered.
This means that any good brand strategy process must involve getting to the heart of your brand, chiseling away at the industry jargon and fluff and stuff you think is unique to you but really isn’t (it’s OK, everyone struggles with this — the first step is to recognize it), then articulating and expressing this insight —
generally a unique combination of what + why + how + benefit/outcome — through your brand visuals and voice in a way that celebrates and owns what makes you truly unique.
There might be a few things you feel help you create differentiation. That’s good in that it creates some depth and personality and gives you some common themes to weave into your brand expressions.
But there’s tremendous value in leading with one main thing. Finding one gem of differentiation and going all-in with it enables you to create a unique place in the marketplace, and more importantly, in the mind of your consumers.
You can’t be known for all the things you are and do. But you can become known for one. So carve out a place for your brand that is true to you yet different from everyone else in your space and you will increase impact, brand recognition, and clout.
Internally, it simplifies your messaging and culture and perspective. It gives you the freedom to act according to what comes naturally and it keeps you from watering-down your brand expression with generalities and cliches.
Do your brand identity and brand expression accomplish the art of differentiation? Do you know and own and lead with something no one else in your space is saying or doing?
Do you know what makes you different? Or are you too close to the brand that you’ve lost the objectivity of a first impression?
If you’ve identified what makes you unique, and have an identity and design system that celebrates and articulates it, then you already have a leg up on your competition. The challenge for you is finding fresh ways to remind and reinforce your tribe of this essential brand truth.
But if you can’t answer this question without sounding like a me-too, then you have an opportunity to get this right at the foundational level and set yourself up for true differentiation. It might take some digging and outside perspective, but there’s something inside your brand that could be a diamond.
The world doesn’t need your brand to say what everyone else is saying. It needs whatever makes you unique.