Article by Christopher Smith published by Iniciativa Pymes, 2012.


That price is a key factor in purchasing decisions, and even more so in times of scarcities, is no news. However, recent neuroscientific research shows, with increasing strength, that it is not as influential a factor as sometimes thought. Giant steps are being taken in this direction, and everything indicates that purchasing decisions are based on a very primitive mechanism of emotional association which in the most extreme cases generates almost mystical ties with certain brands.

Success lies in understanding that while our brain is an amazing organ it does not need to know many things to forge an opinion. In fact, it thanks simple and concrete associations.

Many authors take these researches to the letter and speak very ethereal terms, as Kevin Roberts with his proposed “Lovemarks.” But the fact is that consumers do not walk by supermarkets establishing love relationships with brands. When someone reaches out and gets a product off the shelf is sentencing a single winning and a host of losers, and that ruthless decision will depend mainly on the primary meaning assigned to that brand: Volvo is safety. Nestle is child care. Gillette is the best male shaving… The success lies in understanding that while our brain is an amazing organ it does not need to know many things to forge an opinion. In fact, it thanks straightforward and concrete associations. What is a Rolex? Most of us think a Rolex is the best and most luxurious Swiss watch but does that mean we know how they are manufactured, where they are manufactured, what makes them special? Does that mean we own one? Probably not.

This simple and synthetic association has its origin in the fact that the organization is very clear about the distinguishing features of the brand. What is the difference? You may have heard or read things such as differentiation is to create a unique and exclusive position, a unique way to compete, superior value for its customers, a definite superiority and distinguishable. All of this is true, but it is not the same being different (apparently) than being differential. Being differential has nothing to do either with makeup, or advertising, or communication or with more or fewer witticisms or more or less different images to those used by the competition. The real differentiation is based on specialization. There is a sense of the word differentiation in the DRAE (the Royal Academy of Spanish Language Dictionary) that relates to the field of biology, but it applies perfectly to the business world: “A set of changes in the structure or function of a cell, organ or organism leading to specialization.” If you want to be differential, you should try to align the organization and the brand around a single but powerful, central and enduring idea. And that idea already set in the mind of consumers will result in what Marty Neumeier masterfully defined as a brand, “the gut feeling that a person has about a product, service or company.”

Differentiation must be based on the management of a very few distinguishing features, characteristics or hallmarks. We must start trying to understand who we are, and is this subtlety which separates branding from marketing. Only when we have those two or three traits defined, and management focuses on them, we can start talking about real differentiation. You cannot be everything to everyone. Enough is trying to be what it is.