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How to Create a Differentiation Strategy

Henna Mishra

Brand Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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It’s tough to stand out these days. With new brands popping up daily and channels like Instagram making purchases possible in a few clicks, you have to work harder to stand out. A few cents in a price difference or the perfect shade of millennial pink in your ad can truly make or break a sale. Creating a brand differentiation strategy as part of your overarching marketing efforts can help you cut through the noise and position yourself in front of visitors who will appreciate what makes you unique.

To be clear, a marketing strategy covers every single part of your marketing: goals for your marketing program, how you’ll achieve those goals, your messaging, the channels you’ll use, and more. A differentiation strategy focuses on what’s different about your brand and products, and why your audience should buy from you instead of your competitors.

Know Your Differentiators

Before you can create a differentiation strategy, you need to know what your key differentiators are. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Begin by looking at your brand’s story. Why did your company start, or how did it start? For example, maybe your founder saw that there weren’t any tour companies that were committed to preserving the environment they explored, so they started their own. Some companies start in the founder’s garage or dorm room as part of a school project. Whatever yours is, using it as a differentiator can help humanize your brand.
  • Examine what your brand’s values are. Maybe you’re a custom apparel company that focuses on making sure independent artists get their work out to a larger audience. If it’s something that resonates with your ideal audience, don’t be afraid to use it as part of your differentiation strategy.
  • Know what makes your product different: how it’s made, the materials used, or the packaging process. For example, one sunglass company launched an entire differentiation campaign based on the fact that its products are made from sustainable materials. Your product might be made with higher-quality materials, manufactured in a green business-certified plant, or use completely recycled materials for packaging.

No matter what your differentiators are, make sure they’re something that can’t be copied. For example, if you try to differentiate based on price, your competitors can quickly match what you’re doing, and you fall back into the commoditization trap. They can also lap you on technology as they invest more in their own research and development. Things like your founder’s story, your values, or something unique about your products can’t be duplicated as easily. Don’t underestimate the power of emotional efficacy.

Map Differentiators to Your Audience

When you’re determining your differentiators, consider how your ideal audience will respond to them. For example, if your ideal customer profile includes people who care about the environment, emphasizing the use of sustainable materials will resonate and should be included in your messaging. Conversely, if your audience is more focused on how your products' function, don’t make this differentiator the focus of your marketing efforts.

Use Your Value Proposition to Highlight What Makes You Unique

Finally, write a value statement that will shape your future messaging based on your key differentiators. This is known as your value proposition, which is a statement that sums up the value that you provide to customers. Your value prop should include how your product solves the customer's problem, the specific benefits or value that it delivers, and why customers should choose you over the competition. This value proposition can be used to guide your brand's messaging for your ads and other marketing tactics.

When you create a differentiation strategy, you can break free of the commoditization trap and stand out in an otherwise crowded marketplace. Look to your origin story, your values, and how your products are different from the competition’s, and you’ll be able to craft messaging that turns your target audience into customers.

Check out our blog post, Competitor Analysis: Know Your Competition, to help you identify your key differentiators, and leverage that intel to breath life into your marketing strategy.

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