Marketers have been hearing and reading for years about the need for differentiation. And yet, when we look around, why are we still surrounded by so much sameness?

Even with all the awareness of the need for differentiation, the primary killers of brands and businesses continue to be similarity and uniformity.

Ask the typical consumer to tell you the key differences between banks or food companies or pharmaceutical companies, or retailers in the same space. How many can truly differentiate them in their minds? How many of your customers/consumers can do it?

Differentiation and distinction are so low NOT due to a lack of trying, though. Right? If you ask your team, or anyone who works for any of the brands in the industries above, how their products/services are different than the competition they can rattle the answers off immediately. And the answers will sound logical and will make sense. But if those differences do not translate down to the customer in a meaningful way, then what are they really?

It seems that, when it comes to distinction, the real question is not “why?,” it is “how?”.

If you haven’t noticed by my previous posts, I am a sucker for frameworks. I just love them. And I especially love when people far smarter than I have put their time and energy into developing frameworks that solve problems for me. That is definitely one of the reasons I love Scott McKain.

Scott is the best-selling author of “Create Distinction” and “What Customers REALLY Want” and he has dedicated himself to finding the potent cure for all the sameness that exists in the marketplace and to giving marketers the tools they need to succeed. He has spent years studying what it takes for brands and organizations to truly stand out and he has developed a framework for how brands can separate themselves from the competition and become the preferred choice in a crowded and volatile marketplace.

We are lucky to have Scott as a speaker at Brand ManageCamp 2017 in September. While there, he will discuss the most common mistakes we all make when it comes to commoditization as well as the 3 destroyers of differentiation that affect most brands. He will also illuminate the 6 common disconnections between brands and customers and the specific steps we must undertake to achieve distinction. He will do all this while telling us fascinating stories, making us laugh, and keeping us on the edge of our seats – as only Scott can do.

Scott will also talk about the 4 cornerstones of distinction, and that is what I want to provide a preview of here…

You see, while we need everything else Scott is going to talk about, without these 4 cornerstones achieving distinction is a VERY uphill battle. So, as you think about your brand’s distinction, think long and hard about how you are addressing each of these:

(1) Clarity. Clarity is about defining what your brand is. And, sometimes even more importantly, what your brand IS NOT. This is especially hard. As Scott says: “Most of us are not willing to draw a boundary, because we are not willing to have a battle.” Could Mac really define itself without the contrast of PC? Is Heaven as powerful a concept without the knowledge of Hell? What is a Democrat if there are no Republicans? Another quote from Scott: “You cannot differentiate what you cannot define.”

(2) Creativity. The placement of creativity as #2 and not #1 is an important idea. According to Scott, creativity has to follow clarity (and not the other way around) because creativity must be leveraged within those clear boundaries identified in step #1. Otherwise, your creativity is random and pointless. It does not mean, though, that creativity is any less important than clarity. According to Scott: “Creativity without clarity is devoid of distinction…(but)…execution without creativity is BORING.”

(3) Communication. It is not enough to just be distinct, if nobody knows about it! Scott says it best: “A story you keep to yourself has the same value as no story at all.”

(4) Customer Experience Focus. NOT a Customer Focus – it is a Customer EXPERIENCE Focus. “What does it feel like” is the question Scott will ask you.

All 4 of these are critically important to being distinctive – as are the many other things Scott will discuss at Brand ManageCamp. So, ask yourself if your brand is as distinct in your customer’s mind as it could be. If not, consider the points above and consider joining Scott and the rest of our amazing speaker lineup at Brand ManageCamp on Sept 26-27 in Las Vegas!