Why You Should Stop Worrying About DifferentiationBy Nancy Goldstein

Three Models for Digital Brand Differentiation!

Five Ways to Stand Out and Differentiate Your Brand from Competitors!

Fifty Ways to Differentiate Your Brand!

So many blog posts with so ways to differentiate and yet, there is so little meaningful differentiation out there.

We get calls about it frequently.

Business leaders call us because they need help differentiating their brand.

Unicorns in Business

Here’s the thing: They don’t.

Focusing on differentiation doesn’t really make any sense. It’s trying to be different for the sake of being different.

For example, one way Compass(x) Strategy could differentiate itself would be to inject unicorn references in everything we did: Our blog, client proposals, social media, all of it.

It would be our thing.

We would be known for it: “You know Compass(x), they are that unicorn firm.”

That  would without a doubt make us different, but is it compelling? Nope.

Is it relevant? Probably not.

Is it uncomfortably weird? Definitely.

FlashDry-XD vs. Other Kinds of Dry

Examples of meaningless differentiation happen all the time.  

You see companies shouting about the revolutionary effectiveness resulting from their features being ever-so-slightly different from the competition.

An outdoor apparel company has the following on their website: “Gear engineered with FlashDry-XD technology that keeps you dry, and won’t snag, pill, or pull.”

Now, I’m not an outdoor enthusiast, but are materials that are FlashDry-XD really better than flash-dried or any other kind of dried?

Is that really why people choose outdoor apparel?

It’s Not About the Stuff

That’s where focusing on differentiation fails: It makes it solely about “the stuff.”

Certainly, the stuff has to be great or you don’t get to play at all.

Your fruit snacks must taste delicious, your customer service team responsive, and your prices reasonable.

But that isn’t enough.

Most banks have competitive rates, most products have solid warranties, and most smartphones have good battery life.

There needs to be something more.

Rather than focusing on differentiation, companies should be asking “what is the difference we make?”  

By answering that question, you can articulate your company’s reason for being or why your company matters.

Approaching the challenge through this question will lead to something far more important than differentiation. It will lead to relevance.

What’s the Differentiation to Customers?

To understand the difference you make, talk to your leadership team, your customers, your employees, and your partners. 

Then ask yourself:

  • What is it about your company that people love?
  • What is it about your story that connects with people beyond the stuff you sell?  
  • What is it about how or why you do what you do that will means something to your audience?
  • What is that thing that will make people think, “this company gets me?”

So, if you begin to worry about differentiating from your competition, stop and change the question.

Move beyond the stuff and get to what really matters to your customers, your employees and your partners.

Think about the difference you make to them.

And give the unicorns a break.

Nancy Goldstein

Nancy Goldstein founded Compass(x) Strategy with a mission to make marketing a Force for Good. As Chief Strategist, Nancy untangles marketing complexities so remarkable companies can thrive. She brings 20 years of experience growing businesses of all shapes and sizes. Most importantly, Nancy wants everyone to remember that there is always money in the banana stand.

View all posts by Nancy Goldstein