As outlined in my recent book, Brand Turnaround, through which I tell the stories of more than 75 brands, Game Changers are key concepts to brand transformation. If you’ve been following my article series on turnaround, you will recall that I’ve introduced you to six Game Changers: Take Responsibility, Never Give Up, Lead Strong, Stay Relevant, Keep Improving and Build Equity. In addition to these six, there is one last Game Changer—Own Your Distinction. And, for many brands, this is one of the most important strategies of them all.
In taking ownership of your brand distinction, your marketing dollars will be more effective because your investments link your product in consumers’ minds to recognizable and memorable proprietary tangible and intangible assets and attributes.
Brand distinction is defined as what makes you unique. It can stem from your offering, processes, packaging, persona or experiences but, in most cases, it comes from a combination of many. Once you’ve established distinction and own the turf associated with it, your brand increases in strength and is portrayed by consumers as an identifiable and memorable entity.
Distinction alone will not bring your brand back from a shake-up. The other Game Changers need to be addressed too. Your set of distinguishing factors need not only be uniquely yours but perceived as value-add and relevant to the market you are targeting. Once achieved, you will be in a better place to start your brand recovery, rebuilding your credibility, trust and authority in consumers’ minds.
Assess your brand’s level of distinction by answering these seven questions:
• Does your brand provide real substantive differences that are important to the customer?
• Does your brand provide convincing proof of these differences?
• Can you easily articulate your brand’s differences?
• Do your employees exemplify the brand differences through word and deed?
• Relative to the price difference, does your brand deliver substantially more value than does your best competitor?
• Does your messaging and communication exemplify your brand differences?
• Is your brand distinction easy to copy or are the barriers of entry strong?
While these questions serve as a good starting point to establish your brand distinction, there are some other things you need to do. You must demonstrate a great level of courage, display long-term commitment over short-term results and create an integrated brand messaging campaign. These things will help your brand to stand out among competitors and can also permeate to wide-ranging consumer touchpoints.
Ultimately you want to create your own exclusive formula whose components result in individuality. For example, Geek Squad, one of the cases in my book Brand Turnaround, did this through the use of humor, harmony, helpfulness and availability. Add to that, unique packaging, and a brand-centric culture that plays through the brand story and work environment, brand reach and communication, and you have a highly regarded brand.
Other brands that I admire and examine in my book who have established a strong distinctive market position include SunChips, Fizzies and Pee-wee Herman. These three brands not only established themselves as distinct as Geek Squad, but they also faced significant turmoil and brand bumps yet managed to bounce back due in large part to their unique and distinct brand story.
Whether your distinction is by being the “healthy” or “green” brand choice (as SunChips is), an innovative brand offering consumers experience through its use and a unique delivery system to accompany the product (as Fizzies is) or simply a very unique character persona (as Pee-wee Herman is), execute on a platform that you can own—one that has legs and that your competitors can’t copy.
If your brand manufactures baby food, you will have a far different formula of distinction than a brand selling tattoo ink. Clearly the two targets have distinct demographics and value systems. The method of standing out and sticking in the minds of the buyer should be as unique as they are.
Distinction planning involves two parts, first identifying your opportunities for difference (e.g., brand niches, personality, look and feel, physical size and stature, campaigns, pricing, delivery methods, locations, materials or brand stories) then you must own your distinction by articulating what makes you different, creating patterns of credible proof in all your touch points, translating your distinction to market segments within your fan base and leveraging symbols and messages in both internal and public communications.
Being distinct takes courage and commitment. While no one Game Changer will ensure your brand immunity to a shake-up, the combination of all seven will help contribute to your bounce back in the event you find yourself in choppy waters.
This article is based on content from Karen Post’s latest book, Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill).
Creativity is the fuel for all progress in life and business. And the good news, CREATIVITY is within everyone’s reach. While some people are born with a stronger creative twist to their thinking, creativity is a skill that can be learned.
Developing a deeper creative mind is one of my favorite passions in life. I’m always looking for new resources and thought leaders that can help me produce more creative juice so I can enjoy my journey and achieve my goals.
Here are three books on the subject of creative thinking and enhancement methods that have helped me be more creative thus adding more value to what I offer the world, my clients, followers and friends.
If you are looking to boost your creative power, I highly-recommend you check these out.
Steal Like an Artist, 10 things nobody told you about being creative by Austin Keleon.
You can read this book in an hour. It’s quick, fun, entertaining and very inspirational. The author, Austin Kleon, shares a snarky, yet practical approach to improving your creative output. He cites many creative masterminds and exposes simple, immediate actions to open the flood gates of ideas from your mind. The book is small in size and good to carry on the go for when your brain gets stuck. Austin is also from Austin, TX, the land of many brilliant ideas.
Imagine, How creativity works by Jonah Lehrer
Jonah Lehrer is a modern day rock star/scientist when it comes to writing and thinking about creativity. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and many other international pubs, which is how I discovered this profound and interesting thought leader. Lehrer contends that creativity is not limited to the chosen few, but is waiting for those who embrace the rut, think like children and love to daydream and grab it. He also unveils why traditional thinking about creativity, criticism, collaboration and brainstorming need to be trashed. Backed by science and presented in an easy to consume style, Lehrer’s book is a critical read for anyone in business.
Thinkertoys, the handbook for creativity by Michael Michalko
This book is my bible when it comes to creativity. I discovered Michalko’s work over ten years ago and it is my number one resource for exercises and tips to keep my brain creating at peak state. Need to light up your team, solve a big challenge or just better understand how the mind works? This is an amazing book. I especially like the way it is organized. All chapters are summarized by a blueprint and big takeaways, so you can quickly access methods and apply them to your situation.
Need more? You may also want to check out my A to Z Creativity eBook. It’s packed with 26 daily actions that I live by.
“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on!” Albert Einstein.