Points of difference: how does your brand stand out?

If you’ve ever been around anyone who talks about positioning, you’ve probably heard them talk about points of difference, differentiation, or the concept of key differentiators.

A point of difference is a something about the brand that makes it different from other competing brands. But a good point of difference won’t just revel in its different-ness—it must also be something your customers would value.

A point of difference is something about a brand that makes it different, and that would be valued by potential customers.

Our platypus mascot dons a cape to embody his points of difference in a way his community values.

Our platypus mascot knows how to make himself stand out in a way his community values.

Time to work with your team to uncover points of difference for your brand.

For examples of good and bad points of difference, plus more on the basics of brand positioning, download our Adventure Guide.

Step 1 Share knowledge

Share any background materials, or the results of research you’ve done about your brand. Make sure to review your competitive frame(s) of reference, and the definition of points of difference at the beginning of this post.  If you don’t have any formal research to share (e.g. customer surveys, a brand audit, etc.), you can rely on the shared knowledge and experiences with the brand of the people in the room as a substitute. 

Step 2 Ideate

Ask the group to list as many key competitors in your primary competitive frame of reference as they can. Encourage people to get creative, naming obvious and not-so-obvious competitors. Write the ideas in a place where everyone can see them.

Use the printable worksheet. Let each individual in your group write down, based on learnings from your brand research, up to five words or short phrases to answer the following questions:

  1. According to the research, what makes us different and better than our competitors today in the primary competitive frames of reference?
  2. What might make us better than our competitors and more valued by our brand community in the future in this frame of reference?

Remember to keep your competitive frame of reference front and center. Don’t lose sight of the specific context in which you are attempting to position your brand.

Step 3 Discuss

Write down all the ideas for everyone to see, and discuss as a group. Do you see any common themes emerging?

Step 4 Vote

Have each person vote with a sticky dot or post-it on which terms resonate most as differentiators for the brand.

Make sure people understand these descriptions must not only make the brand different, but also be the things the community would value.

Step 5 Consolidate

Look at the 5-10 words or phrases receiving the most votes. Could any of these be combined to communicate one thought? Get your team’s help to reduce the number of points of difference down to 2-4 key ideas.

Step 6 Identify

Take the 2-4 points of difference you’ve identified, and ask the group to tell you, by a show of hands, whether each point of difference is true about the brand today or whether it’s an aspirational point of difference you hope the brand will strive to reach in the future. Mark an A beside the aspirational points.

Strive for one or, at most, two aspirational points of difference. These points will not necessarily resonate with your brand community…yet.

Thank your group for their ideas, and be sure to take pictures of or otherwise record notes from the session. The points of difference you uncovered will play a fundamental role in your final positioning strategy.

Phew! Take a breather and make sure to drink plenty of water. Later today we’ll trek toward another essential element of a strong brand positioning framework—the points of parity.

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