Is your Brand distinctive and not another sheep in the herd

Is your Brand distinctive and not another sheep in the herd

In her 1933 study, paediatrician Hedwig von Restorff found that when participants were presented with a list of strongly similar items with one distinctive item on the list, the memory of that one particular unique item was improved.

For example, in the following list of words - desk, chair, bed, table, chipmunk, dresser, stool, couch – "chipmunk" will be remembered the most as it stands out against the other words in its meaning. (courtesy: Wikipedia)

This is called Von Restorff effect or the isolation effect and this idea can be used as a strategy to differentiate your brand.

The other day, while I was absorbing some quiet moment in the upstairs of my home, I noticed a troop of pigeons flying in the sky. In the whole flock, one pigeon caught my attention. While all the birds were dark in colour this one was a pure milk-white.

So, it naturally stood out from the others. 

Imagine the same scenario in the marketing world.

In any given category there are only a few brands that stand out and gain attention because it is different from the others; rest all the brands get missed out. 

Differentiation is the strategic exercise a company can do to build its brand equity.

Here are the 8 ways to differentiate your brand:

Idea – 1 Be a low-cost and volume-driven player in the mass market. (Examples – Maruti Suzuki, Bisleri and Ikea). During the early stage, the entire airline, travel and tourism industry targeted only the premium segment. Later, the budget travel offerings came and democratized the market.

Idea – 2 Be a premium and value-driven player. That’s exactly opposite to Idea-1. Identify a category that still has a scope for premiumization. When the market leaders like Britannia and Parle focussed entirely on the low-end segment of the biscuits category, ITC introduced Dark Fantasy in the premium segment.

(Other Examples – Tony & Guy, Apple and Harley-Davidson)

Idea – 3 Use the power of emotions and communicate a story in the commoditized market

We, humans, try to find meaning in whatever we do and you can elevate a product through effective design and storytelling. 

To do this, understanding the culture and the context in which people use your product is extremely crucial.

(Examples – Nike, Cadbury and Coca-cola)

Idea – 4 Invent a new sub-category that was omitted by the market leaders. 

While Colgate focussed on the mass market, Sensodyne identified a specific pain point - Sensitivity (a growing niche) in the toothpaste segment and positioned the brand in that market gap.

(Other examples – Red Bull and LinkedIn)

Idea – 5 Create an online distribution platform or a marketplace. 

Examples – Naukri,, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and Netflix – all these platforms unbundled a niche category from the conventional media. Before Naukri &, job and matrimonial listings were only the mainline print media.

There is still a lot of white space available to create an online platform in the niche segments.

Idea – 6 Rewrite the customer experience. Any company that operates in the service segment has an expanse to dramatically enhance the customer experience.

(Examples – Starbucks, and Disney)

Idea – 7 Ride on a new trend. Ask yourself, what are the new consumer trends that have not yet fully picked up momentum?

(Examples – GoPro, Shopify and Instagram)

Idea – 8 Target a specific demographic segment. 

Real estate developers like Asiana Housing focus on developing homes for senior citizens. 

By focussing on specific demography, we can understand and solve their problems with super-specific value propositions which are not offered by other companies in the market.

(Examples – Only for men, women, elders and kids).

The intention is to challenge the conventions of your category and break them deliberately. This will help you to build a brand that is distinctive and memorable.

As Barbara Noakes, a renowned copywriter penned - “When the world zigs, zag”.

About the Author

Rajesh Srinivasan is a Chief Marketing Officer, Author and Keynote Speaker, he works closely with the CEOs/Founders and devises a robust growth and brand strategy that helps them to stay relevant.

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