Positioning – Differentiated or Distinctive?

Emma T - 22 nd September 2015

I’ve always taught people that brand positioning should be ‘credible, motivating and differentiated’. However, recently I have started to replace ‘differentiated’ with ‘distinctive’. 

  • Differentiated. Be unlike, be distinguishable from. 

  • Distinctive. Serving as a mark or token by which something may be known from others of its kind.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to truly differentiate a brand and, sometimes, in pursuit of that differentiation, brand owners can lose sight of the core purpose – the customer.

This is true in consumer electronics and white goods, where businesses try to differentiate on technical product features. This may be a big deal to the manufacturer, but isn’t actually based on consumer insight.

People don’t sit at home watching 3D TVs. 

3D TVs – a fantastic innovation and undoubted in its differentiation, but how many people with 3D TVs having the solidarity to sit there, and then say they actually enjoy the weird experience of watching TV with 3D glasses on?

In the 70s Citroen introduced its Hydropneumatic suspension system, supposedly to give a smoother ride. However, what they forgot was the basic insight that consumers wanted a reliable and safe car. There was simply far too much to go wrong – and it did. Not only that, but it induced travel sickness in a lot of people.

However, getting the basics right – whether that’s brand identity, communications, personality, service or other small touches – can be the difference between winning and losing.

Is McDonalds really any different from other burger chains?

Let’s play word association…

EasyJet – Orange, Hollister – half naked men, Innocent – grass covered cars, American Airlines – funny You Tube videos of great staff, Disney – Mickey Mouse…

Is McDonalds really any different from other burger chain? Probably not, but those Golden Arches really stand out.

Aquafresh is an example of another triumph of distinctiveness over differentiation – the three stripes are utterly meaningless, they’re just a mnemonic but the company saw a surge in sales a few years ago when they turned once again to their iconic and equally distinctive animated ad of the whole family happily brushing their teeth with a song about the stripes.

How do you differentiate your brand from others or are you struggling to achieve the positioning you want? Get in contact to see how we can help you. 

Emma has had a very successful marketing career spanning a range of industries. This enables her to truly understand, and help overcome, the challenges her clients face in developing and operationalising winning brands.
Find out more about Emma T