The Secret Marketer on the importance of brand differentiation

I have previously talked about my brand tracker, the market research study that I have run annually for the past three years, to understand familiarity and favourability towards my brand among its customers and the wider market.

Secret Marketer

This week, I have been looking much more closely at the findings, in readiness to present it to the board as back-up as to why I need a big budget this year. I have already been forewarned that the chief executive is only interested in activity that pays back in-year (and ideally in-quarter), which is going to be a tough brief.

While I was generally supportive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s view on creating a greater alignment between ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’, one of the negative consequences is a focus on short-term measures, which is potentially very brand-damaging indeed.

Anyway, back to my brand tracker. Among all the pretty graphs and spider diagrams, my primary finding is that there is a lack of differentiation between my brand and many of its competitors in the eyes of the customer. Apart from the potential positives of riding on the back of someone else’s investment, this is also mighty worrying because it implies that while the sector as a whole is growing in awareness and popularity, the evidence suggests that if one of the bigger players in the sector slips up, the rest of us will be pulled down.

“We are all in it together,” as our prime minister allegedly declared as a rallying call to his electorate. My dilemma, like David Cameron’s, is that my destiny may not be in my own hands.

The same was also true for the last brand that I worked for, even though it was in the ‘essential luxury’ sector (or travel and leisure to you and me). We did some research there that asked who our biggest competitors were, expecting it to be those that we fought for market share with on an almost daily basis. But the answer from our customers was quite different – it was car brands, home improvement retailers and the like.

Why? Because in the eyes of the consumer, if they had £1,000 in their pocket they could either spend it on a car, a kitchen or a holiday. It makes you think, doesn’t it?

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