Brand Differentiation: 10 Ways to Survive in 2013

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Brand differentiation is the multifaceted process that companies use to make their brand


Brands (Photo credit: nicolasnova)

image stand out in a crowd. Robert Passikoff, the President of Brand Keys, created several strategies that businesses must incorporate in 2013 to help differentiate their brand from the masses in a November article featured on The Blake Project's branding blog.

The Emotional Approach to Marketing

One of the biggest ways that brand differentiation will change in 2013 is with a swing toward emotional marketing rather than analytical marketing. In the past, businesses and brands advertised products and services to consumers by presenting a rational need and promising to fulfill that need. Today, however, customers want to hear inspiring stories about real-life customers. They want to invest in brands that are willing to spin emotional tales and promise happiness and fulfillment. Emotion is going to play a huge role in brand differentiation in the near future.

Social Consciousness

A great way to differentiate your brand in 2013 is to emphasize social consciousness and social issue awareness to your customer base. Social issues and social activism will become more and more important to the savvy consumer. Brands that take steps to conserve energy and eliminate waste will resonate with consumers. Companies that go out of their way to help charities, fulfill a social need, sell fair trade goods, or promote a socially conscious lifestyle will attract clients in droves.

The Social Network Savants

Obviously, social differentiation in 2013 will continue to occur on the social network stage. Social networking is likely here to stay, and many consumers have resigned themselves to the fact that businesses and marketing will begin to inundate social networking platforms. Effective brand differentiation will require businesses to capitalize on social media and provide new ways for customers to interact with their favorite brands.

Mobile Differentiation

When a consumer uses a mobile device to search for new products or brands, the appearance of the mobile website is often a huge factor in a customer's satisfaction. Mobile browsing will continue to gain popularity, so businesses must create visually appealing mobile web pages that will keep customers browsing.

Engagement Strategies

Brand differentiation in the new year will rely heavily on constant customer engagement strategies. The modern day consumer is an easily distracted being. Unless brands are able and willing to engage customers on several levels at all times, consumers will slowly drift toward other brands and other products. Consumer engagement must occur through e-mails, Tweets, Facebook messages and posts, augmented reality, applications, communication and conversation. Customers like to feel that they are being engaged consistently, but they don't like to feel as though they are being pitched to on a regular basis. Stop selling to your customers and start listening to their needs and wants. This will help to differentiate you from the crowds of competitors vying for your customers' attention.

Stop Shouting, Start Scouting

Instead of shouting mass-marketing advertisements to a huge population of consumers, brand differentiation in 2013 will require companies to start scouting for a very specific and intimate group of consumers. Lumping all your customers into one big group won't work anymore. Now, consumers like to be identified in smaller groups, and they like their interactions with brands and companies to be more personal, more intimate, and more individualized.

Longevity: A Return to Roots

One way that some brands may be able to differentiate themselves in 2013 is with an appeal to longevity and brand history. Many consumers are actively searching for products that have been around for ages. They want companies with established histories and small-family startup stories. This plays into the emotional needs of a consumer, but it also goes a bit further. Customers are surrounded by companies that have been in existence for mere moments. Sometimes, it's just comforting to purchase from a company that has been around the block a few times.

Make Customer Service King

If you want to differentiate your brand from the thousands of others in your industry for 2013, you're going to have to place an enormous emphasis on customer service. The customer service industry has been plummeting in recent years as more and more businesses rely on outsource telephone services for their customer service departments. Consumers hate this. There is nothing more disheartening than experiencing a real problem with a product or service and feeling like a brand cares nothing for your disappointment and frustrations.

Brands, on the other hand, that put customer service at the top of their priority lists will be well-placed to do well in differentiating themselves from the masses. Consumers are willing and able to share information about a high quality customer service experience, and new customers are waiting in the wings to jump on the brand bandwagon when they feel that they have the chance to be heard and valued.

Stop Herding Consumers

Finally, one of the most significant ways that brand differentiation will change in the next year is with regard to consumer herding. In the past, many brands tried to differentiate themselves by showing just how many consumers were using their products. Phrases such as "millions of customers can't be wrong" and "the most popular in the world" were bandied about all the time in advertising campaigns.

In 2013, however, brands will begin to discover that some consumers don't find this type of advertisement platform appealing. Many consumers are looking for unique, different, and independent in the products and services in which they invest. A product that is "used by millions" may be too mainstream for their tastes. Brands that are able to advertise quality without advertising an enormous quantity of consumers may have an edge against competitors. There is something to be said about exclusivity. Consumers like to feel that they are a part of something new and trendy, something undiscovered, and something rare.

Brand differentiation has always been important in the marketing world. With new technology, new social trends, and a new type of consumer in the development stages, however, brand differentiation strategies are going to have to adjust in 2013.