Brands That Stand Out Among the Noise and How They Do It

In today’s hyper competitive world it’s increasingly difficult for brands to distinguish themselves from the competition. The internet, e-commerce adoption, globalization and other disruptions are lowering the barriers to entry across industries which is further crowding markets. For your brand to stand out in the crowd, you must not only produce quality and innovative goods, but also a develop a purpose-driven brand story. By fulfilling a social need, you build consumer loyalty but also gain stakeholder goodwill.

Look at the beauty industry for example. Like many industries, it is getting increasingly crowded with big brands like L’Oreal, Olay, Avon dominating the market, while countless direct to consumer startups try compete for niche markets, celebrity brands like Fenty Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics are joining the game, and even Walmart launched its Co Squared beauty line. Yet despite the steep competition, socially driven entrepreneurs are competing by building their companies around a higher purpose.

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An excellent example of this is Mented, a cosmetics brand that specialises in making nude lipstick for women of all colors. Founders KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson were able to raise $4 million by highlighting the lack of options available to this target demographic. The business women started Mented because they “believe every woman should be able to find herself in the world of beauty.” This purpose-driven story has helped them attract VCs, gain earned media and build a community within an overly competitive market.

Here’s how to distinguish your brand by leading with purpose

  1. Pick your brand’s “enemy”:

There are so many issues harming our planet today that it can be overwhelming. To help define your purpose, identify one key issue that resonates as the enemy of your brand. This could be anything from climate change to global malnutrition to the lack of access to education. Just pick something that relates to your core business. The Sustainable Development Goals are an excellent place to start when thinking about how you will align your brand with a cause, and they break out the major challenges we face as a species into 17 clearly defined goals.

Mented’s enemy is exclusion. The founders felt excluded from the beauty market and wanted to ensure that no woman lacks “product” or “representation.” They are then able to position their brand as a force fighting exclusion. The key takeaway here is that clarifying your brand’s “enemy” is the first step to becoming a mission with a company, rather than a company with a mission.

2. Make your brand part of the solution:

Once you’ve defined the issue you are going to champion, you must take concerted actions to make a real impact. Brands that do more than pay lip-service to social impact exhibit authenticity and gain consumer trust. There are numerous ways you can walk your talk, such as integrating environmental and social responsibility into your supply chain, developing products that serve a higher purpose, or connecting proceeds with a donation to a nonprofit.

In Mented’s case, Miller and Johnson couldn’t find a nude lipstick that fit their skin tone, so they developed their own. In this way the brand effectively connected their core product with their company’s enemy by creating more inclusion in the beauty industry. The essential lesson here that connecting your products with your purpose is an excellent way to distinguish your brand.

3. Leverage your purpose to tell your story:

Today’s consumers are bombarded with intrusive advertising both in real life, online and on TV. It follows that brand storytelling must win over the minds and hearts of consumers if they hope gain their attention. Product launches, special features and attractive models aren’t enough to separate your company from your competitors. Purpose-driven brands that build their messaging around their social impact story have fresh angles for meaningful storytelling that’s worth talking about. In this way, companies can gain earned media and scale the organic reach of their marketing efforts. In Mented’s case, the founders are the face of their brand and weave their reason for being into their communication strategies to both consumers and investors.

Essentially, in today’s crowded business environment brands must find ways to meaningfully distinguish themselves from the competition. Consumers are increasingly sensitive to the social impact of business and nearly 90 percent would purchase a product that contributes to a good cause over a traditional comparable good. By focusing your brand on a social issue, using your core business to champion that issue, and integrating your purposeful initiatives into your marketing and storytelling, you can carve out a competitive advantage in saturated markets.

Walmart Store #Walmart pics by Mike Mozart

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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