A classic branding lesson from a four-year-old
Which is better? Pepsi or Coke? Mac or PC? McDonald’s or Burger King?
Actually, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. And here’s why.
Before consumers establish loyalties to brands they love, they first have to be drawn to that brand. And like “baby duck syndrome”—where a duckling imprints itself on its mother or the first mother substitute that it comes in contact with—our brand loyalties are often formed in the same way.
According to Charlie Hughes and William Jeanes, authors of Branding Iron, “Consumers admire and gravitate to companies that display a compelling vision—a vision executed in a way that differentiates them in the marketplace.”
That’s why being different is better than being better. It’s all about creating a preference.
My grandson, Shawn, who was just four when this happened, drove this principle home one day when we drove past a Burger King. I asked if he wanted me to stop and get him a cheeseburger. And he said: “No. I’d rather have a ‘Donald’s. It’s better, because it comes with a toy.”
So for this particular customer, it had nothing to do with the taste of the burger. It was all about the differentiating factor. (“It’s better, because it comes with a toy.”)
This is known as an off-core differentiator: Something that provides a benefit, but isn’t fundamental to the category itself. In Outsmart the MBA Clones, author Dan Herman implores businesses to ask, “What can I do that my competitors aren’t yet doing, and won’t imitate, in order to turn a lucrative and attractive group of customers into my enthusiasts?”
How can your association use off-core differentiators to cut through the clutter, stand out, and create a preference? Because being different is better than being better.