Four Barriers to A Properly Differentiated Brand

Last week I shared a study that clearly indicated that too many marketers are not minding their company’s marketing fundamentals, especially competitive differentiation. If you think you might be one of them, you are not alone. This is something I see as a challenge for many companies in my consulting work on branding and communications strategy.

I think there are several reasons why less than half of B2B marketers are implementing the disciplines required to professionally differentiate their company’s brand and communications. I summarize my observations below.

  • Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations may be self-imposed or could come from internal pressures within your company. It could be a control issue that prevents the marketing team from bringing in the help of experts, or caused by decision makers that lack marketing experience. To find out if you can meet expectations, you need the answer to one question. Do you have the current team in place to provide the research, expertise, information, analytical skills, methodologies and perspective to deliver a solid differentiation? Strong differentiation usually requires a team-based approach with both in-house company expert resources and external marketing consultants to bring facilitation and a broader perspective.

  • Corporate Politics

An ugly fact that marketers everywhere need to face is that everyone thinks they know how to market, even the professionals that are not in marketing. It appears easy from the outside. Professionals who are experts in other disciplines may think their vote should count as much as the professionals with the marketing line of business expertise. Unfortunately, due to company politics, this is often the case and the marketing suffers.

  • Lack of Resources

Research, analysis and the application of marketing discipline takes experienced expertise, time and money. Unfortunately, it is all too common to have company goals that do not properly match allocated resources. Even in a recession, it is well documented, including in these AdvertisingAge and AdWeek articles, that brands that continue marketing and resist cutbacks improve market share and minimize drops in revenue compared to companies that cut marketing in flow with the economy.

  • Critical Examination

Last but certainly not least, a lack of critical examination is the killer of a truly differentiated brand. Unrealistic expectations, corporate politics and lack of resources can all lead to the fate of a weak, fluffy differentiation that does not stand a chance in fighting through industry noise. Play it too safe and suffer. Drink your own Kool-Aid and die. Critical examination is often seen at its best in collaboration with an external consultant that takes the role to question beliefs, arguments and group think. Companies regularly confuse sales check box items, business goals, customer benefits, buzzwords or jargon as differentiating statements. In the B2B tech world, these might include: innovative, scalable, flexible, customer-oriented, robust, future-proof, expertise, next generation, disruptive and best-of-breed. You must rise above this shallow level of marketing if you want to stand apart and win.

If you think your company is lacking in solid a differentiated story, could one of these issues be holding you back?