Affection, branding, and soap.

As much as we want our business to be the best in our field, sometimes the brutal truth is that we are one of many excellent businesses. Small businesses can come to dread the idea of competition, and often the idea of having to compete can keep people from promoting their businesses. You can narrow down your client base, but often there are still a lot of people serving the same audience.

So, how do you build a brand around a business like this?

Let’s look at some big brands. Not the exciting ones, like Apple or Nike, but brands for an everyday product: soap.  Neutrogena, Dove, and Aveeno are all brands at a similar price point, aiming for the same general customer. There are some product differences, but essentially they all do the same thing.

The first level of differentiation is in how each brand frames the idea of skincare. Neutrogena emphasizes healthy skin. Dove emphasizes moisturizing cleansers. Aveeno emphasizes natural ingredients.

One of these brands takes differentiation to the next level by going beyond product differences.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty promotes the idea that all women are beautiful. This has nothing to do with the quality of Dove’s products but it is hugely effective in positioning the brand as pro-women and body positive. Women have talked about (and been internally tortured by) the unreasonable beauty standards set for women for decades, and Dove finally listened. Dove is the only skincare brand that shows up as shared content on my social media feed. It gets shared because the message is powerful. Dove has connected to a powerful “why” for their brand, and people pay attention.

So what does this mean for your business? Even in a crowded and competitive field where you can’t demonstrate that you are significantly better than other service providers, your brand can stand out. You can stand out by:

  • the way you speak to your audience
  • the values you hold
  • the way you deliver your service

You can stand out by standing up for what you believe in. 

Dove is a great example of an ordinary brand that has hugely distinguished itself through brand messaging — they were clear on their purpose and chose a purpose that would resonate with their audience, not a coincidence!

Dove makes fine products. One aspect of their brand is focused on promoting features of their product, but they distinguish themselves by the way they talk to their audience.

Can you think of the “why” behind Neutrogena or Aveeno products? Maybe these companies have decided on this internally, but it’s not as clear or as powerful in their messaging as the Campaign for Real Beauty is for Dove.

Questions for reflection:

  • What aspects of your purpose will most resonate with your audience?
  • What can you do to further align your messaging with that purpose?