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The Myth Of Differentiation

brand differentiationIf we did a blind taste test on Starbucks coffee would the result tell us that Starbucks sells the best coffee in the world? Probably not, but the facts don’t stop Starbucks succeeding.

In theory differentiation is the way we create a tangible advantage. A method for giving people something to measure and a reason to choose you over the competition. As marketers we traditionally like to differentiate on facts. If we offer more or better we win. That doesn’t explain why the cafe selling $3 cups of coffee is empty, while the one right next door selling $4.50 coffees is packed (yes, it’s the true story of the two side-by-side cafes in my neighbourhood again.

Since in most cases ‘best’ is subjective and our choices are mainly driven by intuition not reason, there is no reliable way to prove advantage or predict success.

Rather than aiming to be ‘best’ in the eyes of everyone, what we must do is intentionally craft and tell a brand story for people with a particular worldview. That’s what Starbucks, Dropbox, Chipotle, Warby Parker and Shoes of Prey do. They work out how the customer wants to feel, not simply how to be better than what already exists.

People don’t buy the facts. They buy the feeling.

Image by Pablo Ferreira.

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