top of page


THE 7 PILLARS OF SUCCESSFUL BRANDING: Pillar #6 How Do You Compare to Competition?

Do your homework to make sure your branding efforts are successful.

How do you stack up against your competitors?. What makes you stand out as THE one your target audiences should be working with? Be specific. Why?

How do they compare you to your competition? How about to their ideal solution?

How to do your research.

First, identify the framework in which you’re working. Who else might be a contender? How do they position themselves. In every category there are characteristics that are deemed “price of entry.” In order to be considered you must meet these top 5 considerations. So for example, in the contact lens arena all contenders must offer:

- Improved vision - Sharpness - Comfort - Ease of use - Safety

Brands differentiate themselves with other features and benefits.

For example, FreshLook lenses come in colors for people to blink their baby blues even if they were born brown eyed. Dailies offer everyday disposables so there’s no need to clean and store. Acuvue is the most Doctor recommended brand with “custom” solutions for all eye problems.

What is the ideal to your consumers? Is what they want covered by current products. What if they want . .

Extended wear without the need to clean nightly Bifocal or Trifocal corrections within each lens

Self lubricating lenses

Sun Protection that darkens in sunlight and lightens in regular conditions

A new brand that specializes in having one of those key elements to address contact lens wearers wants might steal people away from their other brands.

On the other hand, if they only provide the basics, the price of entry points, why should anyone buy?

Of course, you could become the cheapest brand on the block, but then you are in danger of becoming generic and having no cachet but price. You have to sell a huge volume to become profitable.

Years ago, I was invited to do marketing research on a new “green” mouthwash. At the time, the two main competitors were Scope and Listermint. Their customers were the key targets.

This study clearly proved the value of a brand right before my eyes.

After asking people to talk about their mouthwash habits, they were invited to taste 3 different green mouthwashes unidentified by brand. One was Scope; one was Listermint and one was the new product.

All the proper procedures for testing were utilized to help them clear their palates between trials as well as rotating the order in case there might have been position bias – some people have a natural bias to prefer the one they tried first, while others prefer the one they tried last, or the one in the middle [weird things you need to know when testing things.]

Scope people tend to be almost aggressive in their commitment to their brand. They tell you how well it works, but also applaud the taste as the best of all mouthwashes available. So it was fascinating to see those very same users “gag” at the taste of their unidentified Scope sample. More than one actually spit it back into the cup.

Later, all were given samples of the 3 green mouthwashes, this time with their branded identities. The Scope aficionados exclaimed in delight, “Now that’s my Scope!!”

It was the identical liquid they had tried before that was repulsive to them, only this time with the Scope name. The power of brand and belief was demonstrated right before us.

The Listermint lovers who praised the antiseptic aspect of the Lister name coupled with the fresh flavor of green mint, were less reactive but did not recognize their brand either in the blind test, but like their Scope cohorts, appreciated it under the Listermint name.

Price of entry in the mouthwash world at that time was:

Refreshing taste

Breath improvement

Germ killing

Scope promised kissable “Morning Breath” which made it very popular. Listermint leveraged the Lister name with its antiseptic promise.

Both Scope and Listermint had differentiated themselves to their users.

The purpose of this particular test was to see if the new product, which would be marketed as the first alcohol free rinse, could perform in the green world of Scope and Listermint. When tasted unbranded it performed as well as the others. Later, when it was introduced, it carved out a sizable niche for itself because it was alcohol free, killed germs and freshened breath. It had a strong differentiating promise.

Imagine you’re a new bottled water. [Bottled water? Really? Not too many years ago, people would have thought it was ridiculous to pay for water.]

Let me tell you one more little story where I myself showed my brand bias.

While in a name test set of focus groups on soft drinks, I loudly professed my delight in drinking Diet Pepsi over Diet Coke. I told the clients in the back room that Pepsi was sweeter and less carbonated and I liked that a lot. In between groups, one of the clients had prepared a taste test for me. There were two cups with brown beverages in them. He invited me to choose whichever one I wanted to try first. Between sips he gave me a soda cracker and a cup of water to clear my palate. After tasting both, he asked me which I preferred. “Definitely the 2nd one is my Diet Pepsi,” I confidently asserted. He said. “how do you know?” I said it’s sweeter and goes down easier.”

A mischievous glint lit up his face. “Sharon,” he teased me. “They were both Diet Coke.”

“What??!!! You’re kidding me.”

But he wasn’t. They were both Diet Coke. I was so embarrassed, thinking of myself as an educated consumer and branding expert.

So even when we may think we know about our brands, perhaps we don’t.

More importantly, for our purposes in developing our own brands, gaining fans through our marketing becomes very clear. The more you can become known in your category for what you stand for, for how you go beyond the price of entry elements, the more loyal your customers and clients become based on their impressions of what you’ve communicated to them.

So who do you want to be in the minds of your audience? And how are you different from your competitors, where you are offering something distinctively yours that matches up with a unique desire of theirs?



Need help with your career or Personal Brand Profile, feel free to contact me directly at

Or call 201 614 4439

To your success!

Sharon :)

Dr. Sharon Livingston

bottom of page