It goes without saying that there’s a lot of competition today. Startups and established brands are competing for consumer attention and loyalty. This level of saturation can make it tough for any individual brand to stand out, especially if said brand does not have an endless flow of marketing dollars at its disposal.
However, there are simple techniques brands can employ to essentially hack their way to distinction. Here are three, along with companies who successfully used them.
1. Risk-taking: Uber
Unless you’ve developed a brand new piece of cutting-edge technology that will revolutionize the world, it will be difficult to stand out from the crowd if you leverage basic marketing tactics. Yes, you need to utilize tried-and-true marketing tactics to be competitive — SEO, PPC campaigns, email and social media. But to really break through the noise, you need to think beyond the status quo.
Think of Uber. While it’s true that the ride-sharing company has seen its fair share of controversy, it’s also executed marketing tactics that pushed its brands far ahead of the competition. Uber has basically become the stunt-marketing authority. The company has dabbled in delivering ice cream in Australia to celebrate National Ice Cream day and partnered with Animal Planet to bring puppies and kittens into New York City offices.
These stunt campaigns have not only proved popular with consumers, but they’ve also garnered flurries of media mentions. Uber knows that it has to continuously take marketing risks if it wants to keep its place at the top of the pedestal.
2. Community engagement: Under Armour
No brand should expect to survive in today’s marketplace without developing a community around it. Brands can no longer afford to think of community building as an afterthought or second-tier initiative. The brands that have successfully built engaged audience bases have done so through offering distinct value-adds, and it’s important to remember that community initiatives are not sales ploys.
According to a 2014 Harvard Business Review report, brands should not view communities as a means of gathering insights and furthering sales, but as a way to forge real relationships with customers.
Take Under Armour, for example. The sportswear brand competes against giants such as Adidas and Nike, and it’s winning because the company adopted a community-first mentality. Under Armour has built a fitness community of 165 million users. These individuals tap into the brand’s social fitness community as a source of inspiration and information to help them achieve their fitness goals.
3. Authenticity and originality: Outdoor Voices
Let audiences in on your brand’s story and quirks, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. It doesn’t serve you to mimic your competitors, especially if they are more established within the market. Replicating another brand’s look or tone will bore consumers before your products have the chance to wow them. Also, customers aren’t interested in overly filtered brand experiences.
Perfection is boring, so lift the veil and take your customers behind the scenes, share real-life stories and communicate your brand’s history — including some of the struggles you encountered. If you stop trying to put on an air of perfection, customers will be able to relate to your brand more. Authenticity is especially key for brands entering highly competitive spaces.
When Outdoor Voices launched in 2013, it was up against some stiff competition: Lululemon, Nike and Athleta. But rather than trying to match its competitors, the company implemented a highly original brand tone and aesthetic. OV’s athletic wear is designed for everyone, not just hardcore athletes or SoulCycle instructors. It has created a brand based on celebrating movement of all types. By staying true to its voice, OV has carved out a distinctive niche in a competitive vertical.
Launching a brand is terrifying, and it is so much easier to simply fall in line with your competitors than it is to go out on a limb and distinguish your company. Too many promising brands have fallen by the wayside because they played it safe, but if you really want to make your mark, you have to take a few risks and stay true to your voice.