The question is not IF you are different, but HOW you are different. Whether you are a franchise brand, multi-location brand, single-location brand or strictly an online brand, if you can’t answer this integral question about your company, you are missing the holy grail of marketing knowledge.

DIF‧FER‧ENT (adj.)
1. Not alike in character or quality.
2. Not identical; separate or distinct.
3. Not ordinary; unusual.

We live in a society where many people are so busy trying to emulate what’s trendy that they forget about promoting what makes them unique. This statement is also true for companies, a fact we were made painfully aware of recently while performing a research project on over 300 franchise and multi-location brands. We were very surprised to find how little competing companies are doing to find innovative ways to showcase their differentiation and stand out from the pack. We saw the same website template being used over and over and OVER again: restaurants, cleaning services, daycares, etc. flashed by, all melting together like endless white stripes on a highway.

This kind of cookie-cutter branding might have cut it back in the days of the Yellow Pages, when things were nicely categorized and alphabetically arranged for convenience, but that day is gone forever. Today, standing out is a  REQUIREMENT to success – companies that used to name themselves ABC because it would put them at the top of the list are now lost in a huge field of ABC companies. If a company doesn’t take action to differentiate their brand, then they will most certainly fall through the cracks unnoticed.

At Design the Planet, one of our primary focuses is to help franchise and multi-location brands discover their true brand identity. One thing we have found in our discovery process is that without exception, every company we have worked with has a unique differentiation that we have been able to showcase and use as a catalyst for their success.

The truth is – no two companies are alike, period. Why? Because a brand is not just a logo and a website. Are these items your most important tools in terms of your visual brand image? Absolutely! However, the development of these elements should come only after a discovery process to define your differentiation. With that vital foundation, the visual representation of your brand can be designed and strategically employed to reflect your “true” brand.

A true brand is made up of a variety of elements: A clearly defined vision that reveals who your company and where it is going; a value statement, which sets the tone and personality that provides the basis of how your company markets itself; and the right people to serve as your brand ambassadors and the voice of the company. A brand is the overall “experience” culminated from all of these elements – it’s the feeling that a customer gets when he/she walks in your door or accesses your website. Your brand is what your customer tells his neighbor or her mom about your company.

Vision, Value, People, Experience – these are the unique elements that make up the overall differentiation of your brand. Just as no two individuals are the same, neither are two companies, even if they are selling the same product or service. Some business owners and their business developers and marketers recognize their own differentiation and find ways to market it, while others need assistance in discovering and utilizing those defining key points. Either way, for a company to survive in today’s highly competitive market, they must first understand their own unique differences and how to use those to their advantage.

Do something no one else is doing. When everyone else is thinking square signs, you should be thinking round.
Take part in a local initiative. Get out of the office. Taking an active role in your community is the best free advertising you’ll ever get.
Don’t take jobs just for the money; do what you are excited about, and your brand will outshine the others because it is genuine.