5 ideas you can steal and use instantly to build an outstanding brand

#Branding #Business #Marketing #Strategy #Tips

By Taehee Kim Verney-Carron

Unbottled home page 2024

If you’re struggling to figure out how to stand out from the competition, you might want to consider some of our solutions.

These totally actionable and specific ideas will give you the insight and power you need to start building a winning differentiation strategy immediately.

Start by answering this key question

"How do you solve your target buyers’ problems in a way that no one else does in your market?"

At Making You Smile, we ask each of our clients that question. The goal is to help them define how to best appeal to their target customers. 

And at least four out of five of those who are asked panic a little bit. They look at us as if they've just come across an unexpected dish on a restaurant menu while traveling abroad—a "Spicy Fish Head Curry on Banana Leaf" in a South Asian country (as was my experience)—intrigued but totally uncertain about how to proceed.

It's quite normal, though. They react like that because they think we’re asking, "What do you make, or offer, that has never, ever existed before?"

Clearly, we CAN'T all become Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers or King Sejong.

King Sejong the Great is the 4th king of Joseon, the last dynasty of Korea. This brilliant king created Hangul, the Korean alphabet, in the mid 15th century. Source: worldhistory.org - photo by Ben Griffus

So, nope. That's not what we mean. 

You don't have to invent something completely new to be able to build a unique and winning positioning.

You can just do what you do but IN A WAY nobody else in your market does.

Here are 5 creative ideas and examples to inspire you

Before diving in, we’d like to clarify one or two things.

You could solve your target customers’ problem with the best product or service ever, and by doing everything better than all of your competitors. Or you could simply be the cheaper than everyone else in your marketplace.

But let’s be realistic.

Being the best in every possible way is almost impossible. That’s because what customers want and need is complex. How could we even define what “best” means?

Also, being the cheapest solution isn’t as simple as it sounds.  You’ll either have to greatly compromise your product’s quality or very probably end up with a non-profitable business.

1- Become a specialist in a very specific field in a specific geographical zone

You can build unique and attractive positioning by being a specialist in a specific field in a targeted geographical area. It will attract the people who need your product, service, or expertise in that particular niche.

Here’s an example.

  • JHB Consult

One of our clients, JHB Consult, is a boutique advisory firm founded by a former corporate lawyer from South Africa now based in Paris, France. The firm focuses on helping the following types of customers: project developers or investors managing development and financing projects in clean energy, agricultural, and health sectors for emerging countries in southern Africa.


2- Target a very specific psychological niche

You can differentiate your business by targeting a very specific group of people based on their deepest pain points, frustrations, fears, or secret desires and aspirations for which other brands rarely offer a perfect solution.

You'd adapt your product or service, as well as your messaging and look and feel, so that those people feel really (and finally) seen, heard, and understood by your brand. To the point of them adoring you, worshiping you, and recommending you to others.

Look at these examples.

  • Get It Done

Get It Done provides coaching and services related to writing and publishing a book. But not for just anyone who wants to write a book. They target non-professional writers who aren’t “necessarily” aiming to achieve financial success or social fame, but dreaming of proudly holding the book they wrote and saying, “Yay, I’m a published author!” They thus specialize in training and consultancy for author-owned publishing.

Personally, I’m subscribed to their newsletter, which provides content and materials full of useful tips and insights that are (I believe) perfectly suited to their specific type of audience.


  • Unbottled

Launched in 2020, Unbottled is a French bathroom cosmetics brand that is changing the landscape of the sustainable beauty and skincare market.

Selling solid products only – from shampoo to body, face, and hand wash, and deodorants that come in plastic-free packaging – the brand’s promise is simple: freeing your bathroom from plastic-packaged liquid products and filling it instead with Unbottled’s line of solid products that are actually pleasant.

They foam well, smell good, and wash well while being gentle on hair and skin. And this simple promise fantastically solves the problem of a very specific group of people with multi-layered psychology. These people are environmentally-conscious consumers who are willing to pay a higher price to protect the planet by eliminating plastic-wrapped products from their bathroom.

They've felt frustrated before by conventional solid products, which generally foam less and thus don’t feel as good on hair and skin as liquid products. (At Making You Smile, we have “at least” three Unbottled enthusiasts in the team!)


(A souvenir from last summer - Jamie, our senior copywriter, and myself in the brick-and-mortar store of Unbottled in Le Marais, Paris 75003)

3- Be genuinely and sincerely purpose-driven

You can stand out from the crowd by defining an authentic brand purpose and encouraging everyone on your team to live by it. It will draw and engage the people who share that vision and the values you stand for. The kind of people who want to be a part of the very world your brand is building.

Patagonia is known around the world as a company where every business decision is made based on their higher purpose, which is to “save our home planet.” This 50-year-old brand has constantly been setting new standards when it comes to putting purpose over profit while being a financially and commercially successful private company. It’s one of the best examples of a brand that has countless raving fans and admirers (I’m definitely one of them) all over the world thanks to its purpose-driven stakeholders in action.

An article published by Yale insights on August 28, 2023

4- Offer unparalleled customer service

You can beat others in your industry and become unforgettable by simply going above and beyond in customer service.

Alan is a French digital health insurance company that has gained recognition for its focus on customer experience. Personally, I switched from another insurance service provider to Alan about a year ago, and it is indeed day and night. 

Alan offers a user-friendly digital platform that makes it easy for customers to manage their insurance policies, submit claims, track reimbursements, and access healthcare services. The platform is intuitive, and each time I ask a question, it’s rapidly answered with a personalized response from their actual human staff, and not AI. Beyond that, reimbursements are processed very quickly, within a few days (if not immediately or within a few hours, as has happened to me!).


5- Build genuine connections by telling your compelling story

You can rise above your competitors by telling an interesting, authentic, and engaging story about your business. A story that your target audience can relate to. A story that entertains or inspires and makes your brand particularly memorable. Because stories create emotions. A sincere and powerful story can make you be seen as a trusted guide in your industry.

Here are a couple of examples you can take inspiration from.

  • ~Pourri

~Pourri is an odor-free sprays brand. It started out with a before-you-go toilet spray. When its campaign “Girls don’t poop” was launched several years ago, the humorous video went viral with more than 44 million views on YouTube.

And one of the main behind-the-scenes forces driving the brand to stand out and create an emotional connection with its customers is the founder’s hilarious real-life story about how it all started. It’s short and straight to the point but told in such a relatable way that it brings both legitimacy and human closeness to the brand.

~Pourri (Go watch the video or read the story)

We don’t all need to have a hilarious anecdote to be able to tell a captivating brand story. JHB Consult, one of our clients already mentioned above, is also a good example here. Jan-Hendrik Burger, the founder of JHB Consult, tells a story of the particular moment when he fully understood the vastness of the African continent and just how few lights there were compared to Europe.

It was this experience that made him start drawing up his unique business vision, resulting in him founding JHB Consult a few years later. It was also this story he recounted to the Making You Smile team, which we were able to build on to help him fully develop his brand.

It turns out that this founding story featured on his company’s website is often what makes people walk towards him at international business networking events and say, “I read your story and I loved it.”

JHB Consult (Go read the story)

It can be a blend of several or all of these. And more. 

In conclusion, while the five ideas outlined in this article offer valuable insights into standing out from the crowd, the possibilities for differentiation are pretty limitless. It can be a blend of several or all of these. And more.

Empower yourself and your team to think strategically and take decisive action to set your brand apart. By doing so, you'll not only attract your ideal customers, but you’ll also pave the way for sustained success and growth in your industry.

So, ask yourselves: « How can we solve our target buyers' problems in a way that no one else does in our market? »

Nail that question while letting yourself be inspired by the five ways of differentiation suggested here. Watch your business thrive.

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