What makes a brand stand out?

As we saw in the previous blog post, the visual and verbal language of your brand’s identity plays a major role in how successful it will be. But have you though about what will make a consumer choose your brand over your competitor’s? What will be the differentiating factor in making sure that your brand ends up in their shopping trolley? In this post I will be taking a look at brand differentiation and brand positioning, making use of Converse as an example to illustrate why it is important for your brand.

Brand differentiation is that which sets a brand apart from its competitors; it “is the means by which your brand is set apart from the competition, by associating a superior performing aspect of your brand with multiple customer benefits.” (Carter, 2014)

brand`s positioning is “the place in the consumers mind that you want your brand to own. It is the benefit you want your consumer to perceive when they think of your brand. A strong brand position means that the brand has a unique, credible and sustainable position in the mind of the consumer.” (Dias, 2010)

These two are not mutually exclusive however, and can be use interchangeably. When a difference in a brand is clear and visible to the consumer, it is also in a better position to be the final choice of the consumer. It is important for a brand to differentiate itself in order to be part of the purchasing process, where a brand first needs to get its foot in the door by being part of the selection set. The selection set is a consumer’s natural instinct to group certain things of the same classification together. For example – brands I would like to buy, a brand I have no interest in, brands I do not know.

If we use comfortable and athletic shoes as an example, a consumer might say (subconsciously): “I have R 1 000.00 to spend on shoes and I need a new pair of sneakers. In my price range, I can buy Levi’s, Converse or Tomy. Nikes and Adidas are a bit too pricey, but I want the best quality I can afford so I will not buy Pep store brand sneakers. I do not like the Reebok brand and anything else is just not how would like to portray myself. I want to be stylish and show who I am.” As a brand, you need to be one of those products in the initial selection set in order to have a chance to be the final choice. If you do not make the first cut, you have lost out on a valuable opportunity.

I will stick to this example and discuss one of the brands in the selection set, and my personal favourite everyday shoe. Converse differentiates themselves by being the alternative – they are the go-to brand to wear if you are into the alternative music and – sports scenes. Converse is the anti-Nike. They position themselves in the mind of the consumer as the rebellious, cool brand, and they do this by the musicians they endorse, the types of events they host and their marketing campaigns. They do still show a sporty, active lifestyle, but instead of motivating people to push their limits and be more active (Nike) they make a joke of running but show how fun it is to skateboard and spend time with your friends: to rather party on a Saturday night than to go jogging early on Sunday morning.

Video:  Converse Commercial 2013 – Shoes are boring, wear sneakers

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKfdtSKtgMU

Converse’s competitive advantage is that Chuck Taylor All Stars are one of the most iconic shoes in modern history. Worn by music legends, they define alternative music, from grunge to punk, to electronic. If you are the target market and like alternative music, chances are that your heroes have worn them on covers of magazines and at massive shows and festivals. All Stars have a place in your heart and you are emotionally bonded to them. You want a pair in ever colour and fabric. It is as much a fashion statement as it is a proclamation of who you are and how you see yourself. More importantly – how you want others to see you.

Grunge icons Nirvana wearing Converse in a photo shoot Source: www.dazeddigital.com

If you are not the target market, you think they are silly, overpriced and ugly, but a true Converse fan will be one for many many years to come (while still listening to your favourite alternative bands and also working a 9 – 5 to support your family). You are the everyday, down-to-earth rebel with a love of music and a heart of gold, and your taste in shoes reflect that. The Converse marketing team made sure of this by differentiating and positioning the brand to be your first choice.

In this post we touched on brand differentiation and brand positioning and why it is so important to be different and to stand out in the minds of your customers. By differentiating and positioning your brand correctly, you become the product that ends up in the bag.

In the next post I will be taking a look at exploring the brand contact process and internal marketing


Carter, L. 2014 Brand Differentiation: 30 Ways to Differentiate Your Brand. http://www.personadesign.ie/brand-differentiation-30-ways-to-differentiate-your-brand/

Dias, L. 2010 Brand positioning with examples https://www.slideshare.net/lineldias147/brand-positioning-with-examples


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