Differentiate to outshine big brother

Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m obsessed with differentiation, perhaps because I have two older brothers. They were automatically better at me at everything—school, sports, girls, everything. The only thing I could possibly be better at was being myself, and I have certainly gone all the way with that in my life.

When it comes to messaging strategy, I’m dogged about digging in and bringing to clients a strategy that truly differentiates them in the marketplace. Not just different for the sake of being different, but different in the ways that are most relevant to their audiences. This is a big challenge in our busy, noisy business world where everyone claims to be the best, often in exactly the same ways their competitors claim to be the best.

So much so that many agencies don’t even try to deliver differentiation. They consider aligning messaging to what the brand offers and how it offers it to be enough. This can even be flattering to clients because it makes them feel that the process is all about them. But what if competitors are making much the same claims just with different word, and sometimes not even that? What is the point of communicating who you are and what you do if you’re not setting yourself apart?

To the heavy-weight brands, differentiation isn’t as urgent, because being big and showing up all over the place sort of serves the purpose. Why us? Because we’re here, that’s why.

But for startups, midmarket, and challenger brands, standing out is the same thing as showing up. You’re not visible unless your differentiated. You’re the little brother everyone ignores, except his small circle of friends, because your bigger brothers are so much, well, bigger.

For challenger brands, differentiation is the great equalizer. If you can target your audiences’ needs better, and more effectively communicate why you are, not the biggest, but the best choice, you can maximize every marketing dollar. You can outperform the big brothers in your space, and who knows, eventually even outgrow them.

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