For your business to be enduring and profitable, it must bring something that not only fills a customer need, but is also clearly different.
You must be different to create value for both your customer and your business.
There is a word for not being different: commodity. A pure commodity confers zero margin, because when an offering is the same as its alternatives, it can only compete on price.
Growth comes from white space. Most think of white space as something wildly new – an invention, a disrupter, like the invention of the automobile. But there are less obvious fields of white space that many overlook. It could be that the content of what you bring itself claims white space. Or it could be that the way that you bring it claims white space.
In high school journalism class, I learned of three ways to stand out as a journalist: get a scoop (new news); take a different angle (another way of looking at not-new news); or use a robustly different tone (talk about the not-new news in an unusual way).
This construct applies beautifully to commerce. You can differentiate in three ways: offer something no one else offers, bring a different angle to something already known, or use a fresh voice to engage on something otherwise familiar.
Let’s explore each.
1. New offer: This source of differentiation is self-evident. When you’re creating something categorically new to the world, you are inherently different. Brands that have claimed white space through new offers:
2. Different angle: This source of differentiation brings a new angle to a familiar category. Brands that have claimed white space through a new angle:
3. Fresh voice: This source of differentiation brings a new voice to a familiar category. Brands that have claimed white space through a new voice:
“Same” is commodity. “Different” is where your business thrives. When you position your business as not only better, but as truly different, you set the conditions for creating economic value.
As you consider true sources of differentiation, consider these questions:
Identify that thing that makes you stand out, claim it as yours, and then make everything that you do a way to bring that thing to life.
Ironclad Brand Strategy owner Lindsay Pedersen is a brand strategist whose clients include Zulily, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Coinstar and IMDb. Her brand strategies are tested in the crucible of her proprietary Ironclad Method. Lindsay arms leaders with an empowering understanding of brand, and an ironclad brand strategy so they can grow their business with intention, clarity and focus.
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LEADERS: Lindsay’s book Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide will teach you the what, why, and how of using brand to supercharge your growth.
Lindsay is a Brand Strategist and Founder of Ironclad Brand Strategy, which builds brands using an exacting and analytic method. Her background as a P&L owner at Clorox fostered a deep appreciation for the executive charge: to create sustainable value. Ironclad advises companies from burgeoning startups to national corporations, including Zulily, IMDb, T-Mobile and Starbucks. Lindsay holds an MBA in Business from the University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business.