9 Clear Cut Ways You Can Differentiate Your Brand

By: Scott Seroka

Many companies in the financial industry struggle to differentiate their brands.

The most common, yet historically ineffective strategy to differentiate away from the black hole of commoditization is to simply offer enhanced and/or additional products and services. Although a short-term solution, it is an arduous strategy to sustain for obvious reasons. Competitors will quickly copy the products and services and brand them with creative names while saying “me too” or “we do it better,” rendering your new product or service as a yawner. Adding to this pain will be the copying and pasting of even more competitors.

On one hand, this scenario creates an ideal buyers’ environment. Competition, coupled with a company’s strong desire to not have its products and services classified as commodities, drives innovation and service delivery while keeping prices competitive. But for some, it’s a perpetuation of a vicious cycle few wish to endure, and only a handful can maintain.

The way out of commoditization is through delivering unique and unconventional brand experiences.

If we look to the successes of brands such as Apple, Tesla, and Under Armour, each tells a story of how they were able to swagger away from the world of commoditization by creating brand experiences people fell in love with. And although each of these brands may not be the largest in their respective categories in terms of sales and profitability, all of them figured out a path to successfully build a base of loyal customers more than willing to pay a premium for their products. For example, in the world of computers, iOS (Apple) may be outsold many times by Windows, but in the personal computing industry, when we think of a powerful brand, we think of Apple first – not Toshiba, HP, Dell, Lenovo or ASUS.

However, not all products and services are as seductive as computers, cars and shoes. If you’re selling financial products and services – products lacking glamour – you can still differentiate your brand away from commoditization through a combination of tactics designed to build your reputation, such as:

  1. Being fanatically responsive
  2. Obsessing over accuracy
  3. Beating deadlines
  4. Becoming ridiculously easy to do business with
  5. Initiating a learning culture throughout your organization
  6. Creating strategic partnerships with high-profile brands as an extension of your own brand
  7. Becoming an industry leader or specialist in one key domain
  8. Treating each other internally as good as your most valuable and profitable customer
  9. Focusing on being customer-centric for your internal as well as external customers

The Challenge: Pick Three!

There are plenty of companies that have built successful brands around one or two of the above tactics. The time is now to take advantage of a business climate where mediocrity is becoming acceptable (or tolerable) and performing “above average” is the new “WOW!” Pick three tactics above you believe you have the potential of delivering better than the competitors in your space, and be relentless about implementation and consistency.

Aiming any lower will keep your brand closer to the commodity territory – a challenging and dangerous place to be.