Brand differentiation and brand distinctiveness seem similar, but they’re not the same.
Brand differentiation, unsurprisingly, is all about standing for something different and unique in the consumer’s mind. For a brand to deliver on differentiation, there are three key boxes to tick.
(As a quick aside, you don’t need a differentiated product to create brand differentiation but if your product is different than the competition, it becomes a whole lot easier. Be sure to scream about your superiority from the roof tops!)
Right, back to the three boxes.
First, a brand needs to stand for something unique that consumers want.
Next, what the brand stands for must be difficult for the competition to emulate. If the brand stands for something that can easily be replicated, what’s the point?
Finally, if your brand has found something unique to stand for, that the consumer wants, and is difficult for the competition to copy, you need to be able to deliver! A brand, after all, is a promise kept.
These same criteria can also be used to assess a brand’s positioning, so brand differentiation is really just good brand positioning. Now, on to distinctiveness.
Brand distinctiveness is how easily and quickly a brand is recognised. And what make a brand distinct and easily recognisable are distinctive brand assets (DBAs) or brand codes (BCs). We use the term “brand codes” here at Fenton Stephens, so I’ll run with that. Brand codes can be logos, shapes, colours, sounds or any “thing” recognised as unique to a particular brand.
An easy example is Coke. The Coke red, the logo made up of that unmistakable script font, the contoured bottle. The way in which every Coke TVC finishes with the sound of a fresh bottle of Coke being opened and then a person guzzling it down like their life depends on it. Even in isolation, these brand codes immediately scream “COKE.” Yes, Coke is a behemoth of a brand but really any brand big or small can (and should) have brand codes.
Once a brand has established its codes, it shouldn’t be afraid to use them. That isn’t to say they should be splattered everywhere but rather their application should be considered and consistent.
So, having established the difference between brand differentiation and brand distinctiveness, the next question is usually: “So which is more important?” You certainly need both, but in many categories I think one is more important than the other. However, that is probably a discussion for another time.