Green sheep in the middle of yellow sheep

How to differentiate your brand in a crowded market

April 21, 2022

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The current state of eCommerce is forcing founders to think about ways to retain more customers. Brand loyalty is a huge driver for retention. Do your customers love your brand? Does your brand stand out enough against the market?

In this week’s Edit, we delve into brand positioning best practices, with real-life examples. We talk about differentiation and diversification. How to get ahead of the competition by investing in your brand, and why investing in both short-term and long-term brand building is key.

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Is your brand different enough?

It doesn’t take a sharp eye to notice that many eCommerce and D2C brands within a niche look the same. Whether it’s similar packaging, target markets, or messaging.

The problem is the brands that speak to everyone speak to no one.

Yet customers are more willing to buy from brands that resonate with them — especially when company values and sustainability are aligned. The goal is to be a customers’ first port of call when they need the product you sell— not catching them by chance through a paid advert.

But don’t take our word for it; delve into Shopify’s brand-building best practices, statistics, trends, and strategy here.

Inspired? See how you can put this thinking into action with our top tactics today 👇


Apply these tactics today.

Here are our top takeouts to apply to your business.

🖤 Create an emotional connection with your customers

Positioning with purpose and authenticity can be a HUGE differentiator in a tough market. Build your following through a distinct brand message. Whether that’s your brand values or an offering that sets you apart; find an emotional connection with your customers and stand for something. For instance, maybe it’s supporting a cause. TOMS Shoes is a good example with their One for One™ model. Buy a pair, and they donate a pair to a child in need. Another example is Warby Parker. They offer fashionable glasses and donate a pair to someone in need when you make a purchase.

Some more inspiration: Everlane’s vision of “Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical transparency”. They build this into everything they do. Their target market is clear: millennials who value ethics as much as their product. The fact that their minimalist basics feels like a uniform plays to their advantage: it helps wearers signal their beliefs and choices. Read more on why Everlane is a millennial fever dream here.

❕Brand differentiation can mean many things

You can differentiate your brand in many ways. Such as what your brand stands for, how your product is made, how materials are sourced, and even the way you engage with your audience. One great place to start is through storytelling. People are wired to love stories. The most obvious is your brand’s origin story and why it exists. In addition, advanced technology features or a very different look and feel can be powerful differentiators. Identify something that may not have been done before (and that your customers will love) to keep customers curious and create a buzz. Unsure where to start? Build your story with one of our Forward book favourites, the Storybrand framework.  

📊 Invest in short-term performance and long-term brand building

It’s difficult to create true differentiation today, but you still need brand marketing to make performance marketing effective even in online-only industries. Brand recognition makes the entire marketing funnel more effective. It’s easier to influence a purchase with someone who knows your brand and what you stand for. The exact breakdown will vary based on your company goals, but as a rule of thumb allocate 60% of budget on long-term growth, and 40% to short-term activation.

👉 In essence, if you position your brand correctly, and align your product - plus customer service - with this brand, customers will develop a strong preference for your company and its products.

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