For a brand to enter a new space, it needs to set itself apart from the competition. Historically, this might have meant a pizza company with faster delivery. Or, a new brand of gum with flavor that lasts five times longer. Seems simple enough, right? But, what happens when the attributes today’s consumers really care about are less about pure product benefits and instead take on a more altruistic form? Do these traditional differentiation methods get thrown out the window? We don’t think so. In fact, they become even more important for a brand wanting to stand apart from the competition.
Why is that? In a world where 69% of consumers say it’s more important for brands to talk about their society and environmental impact versus product benefits, it’s tempting for brands to immediately shift messaging to check that box. But, without connecting this messaging to a brand’s business priorities and values, there’s a risk of undifferentiated messaging that doesn’t pull away from the pack in a meaningful way.
And what happens when 66% of consumers say companies need to have greater societal impact than their competitors to win them over? We’ve seen it hundreds of times. Pink-washing. Pride-painting. Woke-washing. It can be very tempting for brands to borrow culture only to drum up confused, undifferentiated messaging. To win hearts and minds in a new space, brands need to have a deep understanding of audiences and their shared experiences. When a brand does its homework, it becomes easier to find ways to link culture back to their positioning in an authentic way and truly pull away from the pack.
So how do brands avoid these common traps? The answer is at once simple and challenging: know who you are, what you stand for and why you’re different. Having a solid understanding of who you are as a brand, what you stand for and why you’re different allows your brand’s actions to remain aligned with your company’s core values. When you do, it becomes easy to link your brand’s societal and environmental impact with your business priorities and audiences in a way that resonates with consumers in an authentic way and differentiates you from the competition.
As global managing director, Brand Marketing, Candace Peterson leads FleishmanHillard’s Brand Marketing practice group across all regions. You can reach her here.