Differentiate your brand by being first.

One of the most important “ingredients” in your brand platform is a definition of how you will differentiate your brand from competitive brands.

It was first in its timeAnd, according to Trout and Rivkin in the book, Differentiate or Die, one of the most powerful differentiators is being first in your product category or industry.

Now obviously only one brand can legitimately claim to be first. But if you can reposition your product or service into a new category, you can be first.

Here’s an example: I had a client who was going to establish a new chain of dry cleaning stores in a metro region. They were going to introduce several innovative services – pick up and delivery to offices and homes, using environmentally safe fluids and process, and offering services beyond laundry and dry cleaning.

We looked at what they might offer with a joint partner or two for complementary services – hat blocking, fur storage, shoe repair, alterations and a couple of other services. Then, instead of launching XYZ Dry Cleaning where they’d initially at least be just another dry cleaner, we put them in a new category. We dubbed them XYZ Clothing Care Center.

Another approach to being first is to be first with a significant additional attribute no one in the category is offering. Here the differentiator might be maroon-colored computers instead of cream or black. Or perhaps a new blade arrangement for a power mower.

But the most powerful claims are the absolutely new product that defines a new category. Think Swiffer. Think iPhone. Think Crocs.

If you just can’t isolate a way to be first, never mind: more approaches to differentiation are coming.

Martin Jelsema

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