by : Beta Ismawan.
There has always been continuous discussion in the business world regarding the power, importance, and even virtue, of differentiation. “We have to be different”, “differentiate or die”, “to be different is better than to be better”. These mantras keep echoing within each marketers’ head.
David A. Aaker, the Professor Emeritus at the Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, has been promoting an interesting concept called “branded differentiator”since several years ago. This concept is very interesting. In a nutshell, branded differentiator is a set of definitive, proven, and measurable features, that are deliberately branded and managed as a brand.
So we can say that branded differentiator is a brand within a brand. A great and closer to home example, in my opinion, is the Sony Ericsson Walkman feature. The Walkman engine features the cleanest, richest, and the most powerful bass kicking music experience coming out of a cellphone. And Sony Ericsson deliberately manages this, gives the title “Walkman” and created the distinctive orange “W” logo, set out a whole range Walkman phones, and capitalize the differentiator very well.
Aaker also gave another example, a hotel, which name I forgot, that have researched and built the “more comfortable mattress”. The hotel explicitly promotes this mattress in all of their marketing campaign artifacts. They do this for years, and it brings significant increase to their revenue.
In short, branded differentiators are like powerful satellites that encircle your planet brand. Interesting. Powerful. Spreads news about the brand, and also protect the brand from copy-cat differentiation. I think Apple has many latent branded differentiators, but these have not yet been deliberately and explicitly branded and communicated. For example, what makes Iphone different than other smartphones? Sleek interface? But what kind of interface? What is so special about the interface? We don’t know because Apple never communicates this. HTC is better than Apple in terms of expressing its unique interface, using it as branded differentiator. HTC calls it “TouchFlo technology”, promising that you can control your smartphone with finger gesture, and the niche segment bought the idea.
Some of major brands already manage their branded differentiators. Walkman feature from Sony Ericsson. TouchFlo from HTC. But many others haven’t. Volvo, for example, always promoted safety. But what kind of safety, which the safety came from, we never know. Is the safety derived from the strength of the steel? The highly precise engineering? or what? Volvo should’ve put a brand for the safety feature itself.
Clearly in this era of Marketing 2.0, Communication 2.0, Media 2.0, and Web 2.0, branded differentiators become increasingly crucial and vital. In 1990s we already talked about how important branding was, but in 2009 and beyond, a brand can’t live without strong and heavily entrenched branded differentiators.
Great concept, Mr Aaker
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