You may not realize just how important your mother was to the brand-building process, but she always had the wisdom and foresight to understand just how important it was to be different. I’m not advocating, being different just to be different. The most successful brands take mom’s advice to heart, and position themselves as a leader because of the differentiation their brands bring to the market.
Taking risks with your visual identity can often seem scary and down right irresponsible. Not taking risks is the riskiest thing you can do. If you’re not differentiated then you’re telling your audience that you’re exactly like your competitors, so there’s really no reason to use your product or service. Differentiation is all about ownership. If you own your visual identity then no one can confuse you with the other guys.
It’s important to look at the competitive landscape for your vertical market, but that shouldn’t be your only guide. Zigging just because everyone else is zagging often isn’t any better than following along. Evaluate what’s best for your target audience and what your brand is really about. An educated zig will keep you from losing control.
Consumers stay with confident brands. Know what you do well, and have the courage to talk about. Differentiation should come from an inherent truth about your brand. Commonly fabricated differences like better quality and the best customer service have the same effect as over-promising and under-delivering to your clients. Eventually, your customers will recognize these generic qualities for what they are — marketing gimmicks. Be honest about who you are, and have the confidence to back it up.
True industry leaders rarely call themselves leaders. The same holds true for the trendy labels like guru, wizard, ninja, samurai and expert. If you have to remind your audience that you’re an expert, you’re probably not an expert. Your actions, your brand and the services you provide will allow your audience to understand your expertise. They are the only ones that can call you the winner.
It’s time to stop following the leader, and take control of your vertical market. Stand up for what your brand is about, and let your visual identity break away from the pack. Build bridges to connect to your audience and leave the bridge jumping to your competition.