Need to know

  • The view that brands must be differentiated to get bought is rarely challenged
  • Andrew Ehrenberg, Byron Sharp and others say the concept lacks empirical evidence. While effectiveness expert Peter Field found that differentiation turns out to be actually a relatively weak driver of success
  • According to Ehrenberg, differentiation happens within brands - not between brands
  • The debate between differentiation and distinctiveness matters - something differentiated and valued means people will pay more for it
  • But to build your brand on differentiation you need genuine difference. Ten times better. Not trivial differentiation
  • You can still win customers without differentiation if you are willing to rigorously commit to building distinctive brand assets

Almost a decade ago, when I was Head of Brand for O2 (in Ireland), I attended hundreds of focus groups on the hugely successful mobile phone network. The groups usually had a mix of customers and non-customers. The moderator would get their views on various mobile phone networks. Why are you with O2? Why are you with Vodafone? Why did you choose them? What is different about each? “How would you describe the brands?” The response? “O2 is blue. Vodafone is red”.