Brand Differentiation: Myth or Reality


(Image Copyright: 7maru)


A few weeks ago, I went clothes shopping with my thirteen-year-old niece in the U.S. Surprisingly; we ended up at Abercrombie & Fitch, a brand that I used to love because it was cool. However, in the last few years Abercrombie’s loud cologne and half naked models started losing relevance among its target audience (and me!). Not surprisingly, the retailer’s sales fell for the 11th quarter in a row (and my niece did not buy anything). Abercrombie is a great example of a brand that has lost its way and its sales, which illustrated the power (or the lack of it) of the brand.

Today an average consumer is exposed to over 5,000 brand messages a day. In such a fragmented landscape, what makes a brand stand out? In my opinion, there are three key elements of brand differentiation:


1. Emotional connection: A brand has to appeal to both the emotions of its target audience at the same time deliver on performance to satisfy the rational side. An example that comes to mind is, BMW, the ultimate driving machine! The tagline represents the emotional aspect of the car, which is backed up by rational aspects of car performance, after sales-service and attention to detail. People may argue that BMW is just a car that gets you from point A to B, however, as a BMW owner, I will proudly tell you that the “BMW is an experience and not just a car”.


2. Authenticity: Authenticity is the foundation of trust. Brands that are authentic are able to derive higher customer loyalty and a premium price. A great example of a brand that has remained true to its DNA is the Economist magazine. From its foundation in 1843, the magazine had remained authentic to its values of unbiased journalism. At the same time, it has embraced technology via social media & mobile to make it’s offering relevant to the younger target audience.


3. Relevance: A brand has to evolve with its customers’ needs. Over the years, we have seen examples of brands that did not evolve as customer preferences changed. Kodak with digital photography, Borders with e-books, Nokia with smart phones are all examples of brands that refused to change and perished. An example of a brand that has evolved over the years is Amazon. Amazon started as a books retailer and kept evolving over the years to become a one-stop shop to meet unexpressed customer needs for convenience.



Brands exist to consistently solve consumers’ emotional or rational problems. As marketers, we often get lost in the features and benefits and lose track of our customers’ needs.

The key is to identify one or two things about your brand that are important to the customer and different from your competition. These differentiating factors give you an opportunity to create a unique and relevant positioning in your customer’s mind.

The authentic brand with the stronger emotional connection that manages to stay relevant over time will provide year on year growth and healthy shareholder returns.



Mandeep Grover has over thirteen years of experience of building brands with blue-chip organizations like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer across FMCG & Medical Device categories. His latest assignment is to launch a newly acquired medical technology start-up business across Asia-Pacific. Mandeep will be speaking at #DMWF Singapore on a panel discussion about data driven marketing for personalisation and targeting, taking place on 29th February & 1st March. #DMWF 2016 includes key themes of: Digital Commerce, Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Social Media Marketing, Data Driven Marketing for Personalisation and Digital Marketing Technologies.. For more information please visit:

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