How To Make Your Business Easily Identifiable
THE 3 STEPS TO LONG TERM BUSINESS SUCCESS
If your company has direct competitors that are eating away at your market share then this is a solution for you.
In the mind of the customer, there aren’t competitors, there are just options. The human mind deals with options, in a lazy but effective way, by blocking out and discarding difficult to consume information. The mind looks for reasons why to pick one product over another, often looking for familiarity in a brand. This is why Brands are important in today’s market. They allow you to build recognition in the minds of the customers, but how do we ensure our brand stands out amongst the rest?
We are now, possibly for the first time in history, in a period where due to the plethora of options available for consumers; now more heavily reliant on effective branding. It is no longer about pushing out generic products onto the market, it is about pulling people in to choose and be a part of your brand.
The question is now how do we create a brand that pulls consumers to us. Allowing us to avoid trying to sell them on buying our products. We achieve this through a simple formula:
Breaking down this formula we can see a path to success that is driven by immutable laws of branding and marketing.
Let’s start with the importance of being first, something which I have written about previously. Being first is so important because it is directly correlated with being the leader of your market. Leaders of categories control, and maintain, larger market shares than the competition. By being first into a new category, or niche, we take up a place in the mind of consumers and associate our brand with that category.
For example, Coca-Cola was the first cola and still holds the largest market share. CrossFit was the first in high-intensity functional training and is the leader today. These, and many other brands, were first in the mind of the consumers in these categories and now control the largest portion of market share.
It is possible to be first and not be the leader, this commonly happens for two reasons. The first reason is when a brand is first in a category, but not first in the mind of the consumer. Without being first, and letting the consumer know, then they cannot make the association between the brand and the category. Leaving an opening for another brand to come in and make that association with the consumer before you. An example of this is with UNIVAC and IBM computers, UNIVAC were technically first but IBM was first in the mind of the consumer and took leadership of the category.
The second reason is when the brand does not remain focused on their category and starts adding new products and services in other categories or markets, they break the association between your brand and the category in the mind of the consumer. For example if Canon came out with a computer, and attempted to break into that market. Consumers would think “but I thought Canon sold cameras”.
As Marty Neumeier explains, in a small town with little competition a general store is successful. In a big city with lots of competition a specialist store is the correct strategy. We must follow the teachings from the book ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ and find new markets that we can build without competition. This gives us the best opportunity to lead a category and control a large market share. History has shown us that trying to beat competition in an existing market is futile.
After being first in a category we must then move to the second part of the formula and ensure we are popular. Yes, even brands have popularity competitions. I break popularity for brands up in two categories, being good at what you do and being different from the competition.
The term ‘good’ is obviously relative to the consumer, what is good for some won’t be good for others. That is why, like I have mentioned previously, we must have a customer focused development strategy that is based on providing value. This way we do not focus on a product that is in fact useless to the consumer but intentionally strive to provide value to an unserved tribe. When we are able to focus on being good to someone specific, and not everyone, we increase our chances of producing something ‘good’.
Being different is a more complex and challenging task. As I wrote in a previous article (Read “Success Start With Understanding Competition”) the human psyche is particularly bad at stepping away from the norm and doing something new, unique, or innovative. In order to stand out from the competition we are required to be different.
This entails avoiding the natural instinct to go with the crowd, brands that do this are left to try and distinguish themselves using ineffective tactics like price, size, shape, speed, material and other features. None of which have any significant impact in pulling the consumers toward your brand and away from others.
We can be successfully different when we use competitors’ strengths against them. We do this by taking an opposite approach, if they are fast then we are slow, if they are big then we go small. When you do this successfully you present a true alternative, you are able to portray these strengths as problems and position yourself as the solution.
Al Ries provides some excellent examples of this in his book ‘The 22 immutable laws of marketing’. He says “Time built its reputation on colourful writing. So Newsweek turned the idea around and focused on a straightforward writing style…’. That is a pretty simple alternative, but how would you approach a market that had a lot more categories and competition? Well Al gives an example of that as well. He writes ‘When Beck’s beer arrived in the United States, it had a problem. It couldn’t be the first imported beer (that was Heineken), nor could it be the first German imported beer (that was Lowernbrau). It solved its problem by repositioning Lowenbrau. “You’ve tasted the German beer that’s the most popular in America. Now taste the German beer that’s the most popular in Germany.”’
Becks was able to be both first in a new category, explained how it was good by being the best in Germany, and used that as a method of showcasing why it was different from Lowenbrau. Amazing! There are plenty more examples on how brands differentiated themselves. So if you are interested I highly recommend giving the book a read.
True differentiation will be the most powerful strategic move a brand can make to become a popular choice for consumers. Differentiation cannot occur by just trying ‘harder’ or doing ‘more’. It can only occur by being courageous in positioning a brand that is, as Marty Neumeier says, ‘surprising, weird, ugly, fresh, crazy…and so’. Making single bold moves that are unexpected and attack competitors’ vulnerabilities is the approach that polarises an audience and wins popularity.
The only way to build a brand that is first, popular, good and different is to focus on developing strong positioning through brand and marketing strategies that influence what consumers perceive.
In order to take your place as a leading brand, with a large market share, in your category you must follow this formula. Remembering that in the mind of the consumer it doesn’t matter about your research you did or the amount of time and money spent on development. All that matters is how the consumer perceives, understands and relates to your brand.