Have you ever heard the expression “same same, but different”?
Yeh, this expression is perfect to describe how the business world and companies are running nowadays. The truth is: there is nothing new under the sun.
I believe that there is still a lot to come and that we are far from our potential of development as society. The matter is, we have reached a point where information is there for anyone, anywhere on the planet earth. There is no more “secret skill”, “secret sauce”, or “secret information”. Which is positive from the perspective that it helps to level up the quality of services and products that companies offer around the world but it also points out to companies the need to approach other brand aspects, not just product differentiation. And those other aspects start with “human” and finish with “connection”.
Notice Apple, for example, every year re-launching the same product with slight changes just to provide the novelty feeling to customers. And like apple, you will see almost every company in the world doing that, from a different range of industries.
The power of meaning
So, if you can’t rely only on the product to be different, what can you rely on?
To make someone choose your brand over others the key is to build associations to insert meaning, so you can connect with them by touching their emotional and psychic spectrum.
As humans, we have emotional and controversial needs. For example, we want to be liked by others and feel that we belong to a group, but at the same time, we want to be unique and have our distinguish path from everyone else. We want stability, at the same time, we also want to take risks and leave our mark in the world.
The role of your brand is to understand how you can help your ideal audience to fulfill their emotional needs through the market you are qualified to act on.
The meaning and associations you create around the brand shouldn’t be about what it means to you. It should be about what your offering means to your audience. Try to perceive your product or service as a tool besides its functional value, think about your brand as a path that will help your customers to fulfill their psychological needs.
Most of the stories and journeys happen again and again moved by these primary human motivations and needs. This is the reason why global brands invest millions in campaigns, videos, and narratives, telling the same story in different ways so they can communicate the audience’s deepest desires. The scenarios change, the characters change, but the essence of the story is the same. The key motivation is the same, and the plot is always similar.
Which are those “internal needs” after all?
Carol Person, Ph.D. in Archetypal Narrative Intelligence presents a graphic that shows four main groups of driven motivations and desires:
Independence → Finding your unique mission and pursuit of identity
Belonging → Creating the feeling of community.
Risk → Get the job done.
Stability → Have stable structures and safety.
These are just the first layer from many deeper layers, but for now, it will help us to get to the point for you to understand how to use meaning to build differentiation and make your brand stand out in the market.
How meaning helps you to differentiate in the market?
See how Nike and Adidas co-exist and thrive.
A brand’s meaning and how it resonates with the audience’s heart and mind is the company’s most valuable competitive advantage.
Same same, but different. Similar products, but different stories.
I want to invite you to think along with me. Please watch these two videos from Adidas campaigns:
- Adidas videos
Then watch these two videos from Nike:
- Nike videos
Now let’s recap these stories through an analytical view:
Adidas tells stories that activate dreams. Stories about group and support, about inspiring each other, that connect with the need of group and belonging. Most of the videos and campaigns from Adidas shows groups, people that stand together and even when they are different from each other they are connected through the same motivation of expressing themselves or empowering achievement. It calls you to be part of a community that leaves a mark in the world because of who you are. Adidas inspires and says that because you are unique, you belong.
Nike, on the other hand, has a narrative focused on the hero. It talks about performance, conquest, empowerment of the individual. It says that you can do it and that you can do more. It inspires hustling and willpower. Nike’s narrative is built on the competition with yourself. It focuses mainly on the individual, and even when the context is about team and group, the camera is always focusing on the performance of a specific individual. They face challenges alone, they overcome them, and they are cheered at the end.
That’s why the emotional needs and meaning that Nike fulfills as a brand are mastery and independence, recognition for their achievements.
While Nike talks about how you can do it, Adidas talks about how we can inspire each other to do it.
Understanding your brand narrative is key to build associations on a deeper level.
Why using narratives driven by human motivations is very powerful
..we don’t think through data, we think through stories.
The world doesn’t exist inherently from our perceptions.
You have probably already seen this story around you: someone is a tech nerd and can use all data and proven methods to show that HP computers (or any other brand) are better in performance than Apple computers. But another person who loves Apple, despite of all the practical data will still perceive Apple computers as the best!
The reason why is because we don’t think through data, we think through stories.
We don’t perceive things as they are, we perceive things through our lenses: the filters made by the associations we build on our minds about things.
Think about your favorite brand. Sometimes it is hard to tell why we like it so much. There is this feeling, deep inside us, that says “that one is the best option among brands that offer similar products”.
This happens because of the connection we build with the brand when it fulfills some of our deepest emotional desires.
To build meaning around a brand is crucial to first understand who is your ideal audience – their needs, pains, challenges, joys – and what drives them. Detailed characteristics like how people think and what is someone’s desired lifestyle.
This is how big brands that offer similar products can co-exist and grow in the same market. They connect with different groups.
When we analyze deeper layers, we see that they don’t compete with each other, they stand out from each other.
What is your perspective on this topic? Share your insights in the comments 🙂