Be Different

by Craig Johnson    August 8, 2012

There are lots of things you can do to be better, but more importantly, how are you different?

One of the core principles of branding is that of differentiation.  It’s not about being better; it’s about being different.

The energy drink category is a great case study in differentiation.

Before Red Bull, none of us had any context for what an energy drink may be; Red Bull created the category.  The first thing they did to differentiate the brand was to create a different shape of can.  Had they put Red Bull in a standard 12 ounce soda can, I would’ve probably thought it was an awful tasting soda.  But the can visually told me this wasn’t a soda.  It was something different.  Something I had never had before: An Energy Drink!

The next major competitor to come along was Monster.  Monster was another energy drink, but had to be everything that Red Bull wasn’t.  In other words, it had to be different.  So it played on the small size of the Red Bull can and went in the opposite direction.  If you want energy, you should want a lot of it, right?  You don’t want a small energy drink, you want a Monster!  The name, the size of the can, everything about Monster was different.

Then along comes a radically different energy drink, 5 Hour Energy.  If you want energy, why should you have to drink a whole can when you can get it all from a tiny shot?  5 Hour Energy is so differentiated that it isn’t even sold in the same section of the store as the other two drinks; you just pick it up at the counter as you’re paying.

Next time you’re trying to figure out what makes you better than the competition, stop it.  Instead start figuring out what makes you different.

One thought on “Be Different”

  1. Not sure on the numbers but I feel like Red Bull is still winning in this category. Maybe because they were first…not sure. I agree with everything you said. This is def a great case study for sure. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a better one to illustrate. Thanks for the word as always

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